Sauter, AP Performance Racing Chevy Satisfied With Rockingham Debut
ROCKINGHAM, NC (November 4, 2001) - After sitting on the sidelines since the middle of June, Tim Sauter was eager to take the green flag in the Sam's Club 200 at North Carolina Speedway Saturday.
"It felt great to get behind the wheel again," said Sauter, whose last NASCAR Busch Series start was at Kentucky Speedway earlier this season. "If you aren't out there pushing the edge every week, you don't know where it is. We took a big step today with this AP Performance Racing team. Now we know we have a good team, good equipment and we have what it takes to be competitive in the NASCAR Busch Series."
Sauter debuted his No. 9 AP Performance Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo team in the Rockingham event. The team, which Sauter starred for in the American Speed Association ranks producing a division championship in 1999, was making its first-ever NBS effort. Considering the team was switched over in just four weeks from the ASA operation that had just won a second ASA title with Johnny Sauter doing the driving chores, a 26th-place finish at Rockingham was truly a victory of sorts.
"I just can't tell you how proud I am of this AP Performance Racing bunch," stated Sauter. "It was a big deal to get this first race out of the way. I was very pleased the way the team responded we got the car pretty decent for the second half of the race."
Sauter and his US 131 Motorsports Park Monte Carlo struggled off the truck eventually grabbing the 36th-spot in qualifying Friday. In the early stages of the Sam's Club event, Sauter wrestled the tricky 1.017-mile North Carolina Speedway oval searching for the fastest line around the track.
"We were tight in center of the corner," said Sauter, who moved up several positions in the early laps. "The car just wouldn't drive through the corner the way we wanted to and, because of the long green-flag periods early in the race, we got a lap down to the leader after 65 or so laps."
Sauter rolled to pit lane and the attention of crew chief Joe Shear, Jr. and the AP Performance Racing team under caution on Lap 93. There, the team made wholesale chassis changes including a round up on the track bar and pulling two small spring rubbers out of left rear of the car. Armed with the changes, as well as a full load of fuel and four fresh tires, Sauter returned to the action and quickly discovered the adjustments were right on track.
"Our lap times were excellent - only about a tenth of a second off the what the leader was doing throughout the second half of the race," said Sauter. "That showed me right there that we can run with these guys. It's going to take a little time to get things figured out, but once we do, there's no doubt in my mind that we can compete for a Top-10 finish every week."
While that might seem like strong talk for a driver who eventually finished 26th, it's hard to argue with Sauter's reasoning.
"To put this team together in such a short time and come here and run that well late in the race was very encouraging," said Sauter. "We will take this and try and get better. We are looking forward to going to Homestead (FL) next weekend and see what we can do there."
"It was good to get our feet wet," agreed Shear, Jr. "This AP Performance Racing team learned a lot today. We can build on what happened out there today. We were able to adjust on the car and make it better. Now we have a game plan for this team and we know what to expect. We will just have to continue to get better and we will do that next week at Homestead."
The Miami 300 at Miami-Homestead Speedway will close out the 2001 NASCAR Busch Series season. In addition to competing in the Saturday, November 10 event, Sauter and his AP Performance Racing Team will announce their plans for the 2002 NBS season in a press conference to be held Friday, November 9 in the Media Interview Room at the speedway. That conference is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time and all media are invited.
The Miami 300 will take the green flag Saturday at 1:30 p.m. EST and will be telecast live on NBC. The race will also be broadcast live worldwide by MRN Radio.
ABOUT AP PERFORMANCE RACING:
After dominating the American Speed Association ranks, AP Performance Racing will move to the NASCAR Busch Series in 2002. Founded in 1992 by Canadian businessman Alec Pinsonneault, the team won the 1999 and 2001 ASA championship trophies. The new NBS operation will work out of shops located in Mooresville, NC, which feature team corporate offices and 15,000 square feet of workspace that also includes complete metal fabrication and body shop operations. For more media information, or to inquire about sponsorship opportunities concerning AP Performance Racing, please contact John Close at Motorsports Management Group at 704-236-9986 or by e-mail at email@example.com.