ASA Honors Record-Setting Sauter at Awards Banquet Rookie Wraps Up Unprecedented Season With Half-Million Payout NASHVILLE, Tenn. (December 8, 2001) -- Rookie Johnny Sauter continued to grab headlines and top honors with the American Speed ...
ASA Honors Record-Setting Sauter at Awards Banquet
Rookie Wraps Up Unprecedented Season With Half-Million Payout
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (December 8, 2001) -- Rookie Johnny Sauter continued to grab headlines and top honors with the American Speed Association as he became the first driver to be crowned Pat Schauer Memorial Rookie of the Year and ASA National Champion in the s ame season Saturday night at the Opryland Hotel Convention Center during the 2001 ASA ACDelco Series National Awards Banquet. The Wisconsin native collected a total of a half-million dollars this season, including $200,000 for the National Championship and $50,000 for Rookie of the Year.
"2001: What a unbelievable year for myself and everybody at A.P. Performance," said Sauter, who's from Necedah, Wis. "These guys stuck behind me 100 percent and gave me great racecars and I am truly grateful for that. When Tim (Sauter) and Alec (Pinsonneau lt) originally put the deal together for me to drive, the goal was to win Rookie of the Year and a couple of races along the way. We never imagined it would turn out the way it did."
Sauter ended the year with six all-time series records and nine rookie records, including 10 wins, beating the mark of nine victories set by ASA legends Bob Senneker and Butch Miller in 1984 and 1987, respectively. His season total stats include stats incl ude 10 wins, four poles, 13 podiums, 15 top fives, 16 top 10s and 2,039 laps led, all records for a rookie in ASA competition.
" Alec took the chance on me with so much success with my older brother Tim, and he really didn't have too. I can't put into words how much I appreciate everyone and how much this really means to me," said Sauter, thanking both his older brother and car ow ner. "Tim, what more can I say? You are just as much responsible for the success of this team as Joe Shear, Alec, the whole team and myself. If you weren't the man you were, AP would exist as far as I am concerned. You are awesome."
It is the second time in three years a member of the famous Sauter racing family has been crowned ASA National Champion. Sauter's older brother, Tim, was the 1999 ASA Champion. The Sauter family has a strong tradition in ASA. When Johnny won at Hawkeye Do wns Speedway in late April, he became the fourth member of this family to win an ASA National Event. Johnny's father, Jim, and brothers, Jay and Tim, have a combined 14 wins in ASA competition.
While in the spotlight accepting his National Championship, Sauter confirmed that he would not be returning to defend his ASA title in 2002, but will likely run a limited schedule of selected ASA events. Sauter will join the list of ASA graduates competing full-time in the Busch Grand National Series, driving the number 2 ACDelco Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. It will be the first time, dating back to 1997, that an ASA Champion will not return to defend his title.
"There are so many things I am going to miss from the ASA community, but when the opportunity came to move on to Richard Childress Racing, it was something I could not possible refuse. I am going to go there with a open mind and try to do the best job I c an to represent the ASA community. It really is a family."
Defending ASA National Champion Gary St. Amant finished second by 155 points in what many considered one of the most remarkable single seasons in ASA history. St. Amant's runner-up season came after winning the ASA Championship two of the last three season s.
"I almost saw it coming at a test session before the first race," St. Amant said. "I told Johnny, 'not only are you going to be in the hunt for the Rookie of the Year, but you would be in the hunt for the Championship.' Little did I know 15 races from ther e, I would be in a mad dash for the championship with him."
St. Amant, from Columbus, Ohio, returned to the familiar black, red and blue colors on his number 7 Wynn's Chevrolet in 2001, collecting two wins, including one at Irwindale Speedway, only miles from Wynn's home offices. He also collected his first career win at Salem Speedway in the Tecumseh 300. The 16-year ASA veteran finished in the top 10 in points for the 13th time in his career.
"Wynn's have been with myself and my mom and dad since 1993," said St. Amant. "It's pretty hard to say this, but it looks like Wynn Oil Company will not be back with us next year. I can't say anything bad about them, because from 1993 to 2001, in a short track racing series, we had the same sponsor. I can't say enough about the Wynn Oil Company. It is going to be really hard to go to the races and not represent the Wynn Oil Company. I am going to miss a lot of people associated with Wynn's."
Despite Sauter's dominance, St. Amant was still in a position to win his third title until the final checkered flag fell at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
After winning Pat Schauer Memorial Rookie of the Year honors in 2000, Joey Clanton finished with three wins, second only to Sauter, including a dominating performance at South Boston Speedway. At ASA's first visit to the legendary track, Clanton led all th e laps after starting from the pole. He collected two other wins, coming at St. Augustine Speedway and Winchester Speedway.
"I am proud to accept this third place award on behalf of the entire Steve Dale Motorsports Team. I owe this award to everyone that made this third place finish possible," said Clanton. "We started the season off right with a win at St. Augustine, then lea ding all 300-laps at South Boston, then the most glorifying win of my career, coming at the Winchester 400. There is only thing that would have made the season better, being in front of that blue number 9 in more of the races."
Miller finished fourth in the series standings, but dominated the series in one category: qualifying. Miller collected six poles in 2001, giving him 43 for his career, good enough for third on the all-time list. He was also awarded the VP Fuels Front Runne r Award for winning the most poles in the 2001 season. One of those poles resulted in a victory, coming at Berlin Raceway in July.
"I'm proud of our fourth place in points this year, in what I consider ASA's most competitive season ever. We had some great times, and at our home track, Berlin, we were able to win both the pole and the race. It was the highlight of our season," said Mil ler, driver of the number 52 Meijer Chevrolet. "ASA Racing in a challenging, difficult series. The A.P. team had the car to beat, the carrot in front of the horse, the team that made us all work harder to be better at what we do."
Former ASA National Champion and Rookie of the Year Kevin Cywinski finished fifth in the standings, despite winning his first race since the 1997 season. He captured that victory at Montgomery Motor Speedway in a controversial finish with his teammate, Mik e Garvey. He followed up that win later in the year with a thrilling victory at the Minnesota State Fair Speedway.
"I am really proud of the progress our team made in 2001and i am looking forward to 2002 with great anticipation," Cywinski said. "I was going to be very prepared for this speech, but (wife) Traci blessed us with a beautiful baby girl on Thanksgiving Day, so my time has been limited. Thanks to everyone who has made this year such an exciting one for all of us."
The remainder of the top-10 drivers were also invited to the stage during the banquet, including Mike Garvey, Mike Cope, Mike Miller, Scott Hansen and Tim Taylor. Garvey was the only one of those drivers to collect a victory during the season.
Once again, ASA handed out several special awards, designed to honor some of those drivers and teams who performed above the call of duty, many of whom are voted upon by their peers, the top-25 car owners and drivers in the series.
Earning the "Hard Luck" Consolation Award in 2001 was rookie driver Johnny Spaw. Spaw finished the season third in the rookie chase, but had several DNFs and setbacks due to mechanical problems and accidents throughout the season. Despite some hard luck of his own, Indianapolis native Tim Taylor was awarded the series' Most Improved Driver Award. Taylor entered the 2001 season with a career-best finish of 10th place, his only career top 10, and had finished no higher than 21st in the point standings. He fi nished 2001 with eight top-10s, including a career-best of seventh at Irwindale Speedway.
The Special Dedication "Extra Mile" Award went to second-year competitor Greg Williams, who finished 20th in the points despite running on a scarce budget. Three Outstanding Sportsmanship Awards were presented again, with Steve Dale being honored with the owner's award and Gene Roberts collecting the mechanic's award. Gary St. Amant picked up the driver's sportsmanship award for the sixth time in his career.
Berlin Raceway was named as the Promoter of the Year. Owned by Whitecaps Racing, the track has hosted ASA racing dating back to 1981 and has seen dramatic improvements to the track and its surrounding areas under new management. The series returned to the .438-mile track this past season after a year away in 2000.
Despite being a rookie in their involvement in motorsports and with ASA, Texas Roadhouse was awarded the Sponsor of the Year Award for their promotional activities throughout the season at all of their restaurants. That award was followed up with Tecumseh Products Company being presented the Special Event Promotion of the Year Award for their role in the Tecumseh 300. Tecumseh has won the award three years in a row, as the event continues to grow.