Some days pit road calls, or the lack thereof, go your way and some days they don’t. For Johnny Sauter, a call to stay out on track late in the race on old tires didn’t quite go as well as his No. 21 team was hoping as he would drop from the lead to second place in the closing laps at Iowa after losing the battle against the drivers behind him with fresher tires on their trucks.
Sauter would start the day in fourth place, improving up to third by the end of the first stage. He would continue to run in the top-five through much of the second stage, but it was a caution that came out on lap 109 that gave Sauter the strategy play he needed to get to the front.
Under the caution, Sauter and the majority of the leaders came down pit road for service, while leader Christopher Bell stayed out on track.
When the green flag came back out, it only took Sauter two laps to get by Bell as he took over the lead for the first time and stayed in the lead through the end of the second stage, capturing the stage win.
Sauter would continue to lead until 18 laps to go when rookie Chase Briscoe powered by him to take over the top spot. Shortly thereafter, the final caution of the night came out on lap 183, making it decision time on pit road. Would the drivers all stay out on track or elect to come down pit road for service?
Ultimately, the majority of the leaders made their way down pit road, but Sauter and his crew decided to stay out on track with their older tires, a decision that Sauter’s crew chief, Joe Shear Jr., noted was the wrong call.
“I think I made a mistake,” Shear told FOX Sports right after the call was made. “I didn’t think everybody would come. Going to be less than 10 laps to go, we’re just going to have to see if we can hold on. I just made a mistake.”
Shear would be correct and it was the wrong call as Sauter was a sitting duck up front with older tires than those behind him. Sauter was only able to hold on for two laps after the restart before John Hunter Nemechek charged from fourth to the lead with four fresh tires.
From that point, Sauter held on as best he could, eventually bringing his Chevrolet home in second place.
“Our Allegiant Travel Chevy was unbelievable there that one run,” said Sauter. “It’s the best truck I’ve had here in a long time. You know, obviously, with tires, you’re kind of a sitting duck there at the end of the race and I think the No. 8 truck took four. But it’s a good day. Chevrolet 1-2 finish and I just wish we were on the other end of that. In hindsight, tires probably would have been the right call, but I knew that there was grip in that third groove, so we were able to just keep it pitched off. It’s a decent day, but we need to win.”
Even with the disadvantage in tires, Sauter noted that it was rookie Chase Briscoe that gave him the knowledge he needed to make the most of the closing laps and not drop and further back in the field.
“I’ve got to thank Chase Briscoe for taking me to school,” Sauter added. “I was asking my spotter, where’s he running, where’s he running, and on the radio it sounded like he said the bottom, so I guess that’s what we have mirrors for. I need to do a better job myself. Chase had a great truck, so, I moved up there to the top and found some grip. Our lap times picked up quite a bit. “
Sauter maintains the points lead over Christopher Bell leaving Iowa and heading to the next race at Kentucky in two weeks.