Out with a bang!
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (November 12, 2002) - The white flag is out on the 2002 NASCAR Busch Series season, and ACDelco driver Johnny Sauter is up on the wheel and ready. It's been a wild ride for the 24-year old Wisconsin native, fraught with good times and bad, but he would not have passed up this opportunity for anything in the world.
"It's definitely been a learning experience," states the rookie driver. "We've had our fair share of highs, with the pole, the win, and some awesome runs. But we've also had our troubles. It's unfortunate that I wasn't able to accomplish more this year. After the accidents it seemed like everything changed for us. We did our best to regain some momentum towards the end, but it wasn't enough to put us back where we wanted to be, a top-10 contender."
Sauter will take the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing (RCR) owned Chevrolet Monte Carlo for one last spin this Saturday in Homestead, Fla. It will be his second trip to the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway, and he's determined to go out with a bang when all is said and done.
"Of course I'd like to end the season with a strong finish," adds Sauter. "It would put a cap on an already long year, and justify what all we've been able to accomplish as a team. Next year is going to be interesting, sharing duties with (Kevin) Harvick in the No. 21 car. It will give me some time to regain my focus and just have some fun. I'm looking forward to that."
Sauter will concentrate on finishing out the season on a high note on Saturday, maybe even picking up one final spot in the driver points standings. He's 98 points behind older brother Tim, and needs at least a top-three finish to surpass him. With one to go, anything is possible.
* Sauter's first visit to Homestead-Miami Speedway last season was one he'd like to forget. Piloting the No. 21 RCR entry, he barely made the field with a 35th place qualifying effort. The race didn't prove much better, as Sauter ran in the middle of the pack until the engine blew with 50 laps to go and he wound up where he started.
* Team ACDelco will take chassis No. 006 to Homestead for Saturday's season finale. This is the same car they raced at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway last Saturday where Sauter ran solidly in the top-10 the entire day, then brought the blue and white racing machine home seventh.
* Saturday's start time for the Miami 300 is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. EST. TV coverage of the 200-lap event on NBC starts at 1:30 p.m., with radio coverage on MRN beginning at 1:00 p.m. Remember times and dates of the race may change, so check your local listings.
ACDelco driver Johnny Sauter on Homestead-Miami Speedway
How was your first trip to Miami?
"Not much fun would be the best way to put it. We didn't have a good set-up going into the race so that hurt us right off the bat. I didn't qualify well, and that put us in the back to start. I don't remember too much about the race, just that we blew a motor late and ran on seven cylinders until the end. I'm definitely looking forward to bettering that effort this weekend."
Sum up your 2001 season?
"Peaks and valleys. I always compare it to a car salesman with highs and lows depending on the way things go. We've had our fair share of wrecks, but we also were able to grab a pole and a win this season, along with some strong runs. I'm definitely not disappointed with what we've accomplished. I just wish we could've run a little stronger to keep us in the top-10 in points."
ACDelco crew chief Rick Viers on Homestead-Miami Speedway
What are your thoughts on Homestead?
"It's usually a hot, sticky place to race. You need to concentrate on keeping the car down low, with the nose out of the air. Set-ups are going to require soft springs, big bars, a strong chassis set-up and a lot of horsepower to get off the corners. We're taking the same car we ran last week, which Johnny was very comfortable with."