Johnny Sauter, driver of the No. 13 SafeAuto Truck showed his short track roots once again at Martinsville Speedway Saturday afternoon. Sauter, who started the race in 4th position after wet weather cut practice times in half, led 36 laps and dominated the top five most of the day at the famed “paperclip.” His eventual fourth place finish at the checkered flag after typical short track “beatin’ and bangin,” as the driver likes to say, tied him for third place in the championship points race towards Homestead. He is a mere four points out of second position and just fifteen back from the lead spot.
Early race tire strategy by crew chief Joe Shear, Jr proved nerve-racking but successful for the driver – knowing that at Martinsville, it’s a place to trust track position and the ones who have the eyes to make the calls. “Ultimately, it all worked out,” SafeAuto Driver Sauter said after the race. “We found our way to the front. This was fun racing and anytime we see Martinsville on the schedule, I’m a happy guy. While I wanted to be a little closer to the front here, it worked out and we’re already working forward to Texas.”
Sauter, as well as the top five race leaders, narrowly missed several skirmishes on track as caution flags flew left and right during the short 200 lap race. After staying out when most leaders pit in the initial race caution, Sauter continued to post scalding hot lap times. He was involved in two separate freight-trained pileups with minor damage to the nose/hood and left rear quarter panel, neither of which affected late-race performance.
Sauter, while keeping the championship attitude, wishes he had a repeat visit to Victory Lane at Martinsville; but knows that the top five bodes well going into Texas next week. “I think we can go there and win the race, for sure,” he said. “We ran second there in both races last year, plus led something like 56 laps back in the Spring there but got the penalty. It’s a strong track for us historically and I’m looking forward to keeping up this momentum. To win this championship, we’re going to have to prove the underdog and race really, really hard. It’s going to be a battle to the end.”
Date: October 29, 2011
Track: Martinsville Speedway
Race: 23 of 25
Championship Point Standings: Tied for 3rd (-15)
Up Next on the Truck Series Schedule:
Date: November 4, 2011
Track: Texas Motor Speedway
Event Name: WinStar World Casino 350
Broadcast: SPEED at 7pmCST