Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Atypical Night for Sauter Leads to Fourth-Place Championship Finish

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Johnny Sauter came into the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season finale as the odds on favorite, given his performance throughout the year, but Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway was anything but typical for the 2016 series champion and GMS Racing.

After putting up the fastest time in practice earlier in the day and qualifying sixth, things started to go awry for the No. 21 team when the green flag dropped as the speed just did not transfer into the race and Sauter was left to deal with an ill-handling truck throughout the duration of the event.

“It was awful,” Sauter said of his night. “Just no grip, and yeah, we laid an egg tonight.  I don’t know why, just sideways, and then huge adjustments on the pit stops, and I was like, yeah, whatever, didn’t really feel it.  You know, it’s crazy.  You’ve got some races where you do a couple pounds of air pressure and a little bit of a track bar adjustment and it’s night and day, and tonight you make huge adjustments, and it’s ho-hum.

“Proud of everybody at GMS; great season, and coming down the stretch here, we didn’t get it done.”

Falling out of the top-10 by the end of the first stage, the team made huge swings in adjusting the truck to try to get the drivability back in it, but the adjustments failed to make improve things by any great margin.

Sauter managed to climb back into the top-10 by the end of the second stage, when the team made wholesale adjustments on pit road once more, but again, the speed was nowhere to be found and Sauter fell back down the running order.

They had one final shot to get things right during the final set of green flag pit stops with about 30 laps to go, but it was more of the same as Sauter returned to the track and was only able to manage a 12th place finish by the time the checkered flag fell at the end of the night.

“I’ve been racing long enough to know when you get that really good feeling about the way things are going, and I just never had it today,” Sauter said. “Even this morning when we made our mock run and we were top of the board, it just didn’t seem gripped up.  So tonight’s race was a bit of a shock to us.  I didn’t think we would be that awful, but we were.”

Despite the disappointing result, Sauter finishes the season with six wins, 14 top-five finishes, 17 top-10 finishes, one pole, 585 laps led, and an average finish of 6.4 in 23 starts, marking his best year in most statistical categories.

“Tonight just sucked,” Sauter added.  “I mean, when you suck that bad, you just — it’s whatever.  You just go home and go, what the hell happened.  That’s the way I look at it. And I’ll ask myself that for three months, you know.

“Racing is a lot of ups and downs, peaks and valleys, and there’s more valleys than there are peaks it seems like.  If you’re going to race and you’re going to stick around a long time, be prepared to be kicked around because that’s the way it feels sometimes, and if you can deal with that, you’ll have — you’ll learn to appreciate the good days.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.