Phoenix: Johnny Sauter preview

Phoenix perfect fit for Sauter. HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (November 5, 2002) - The thought of racing at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway (PIR) brings a smile to the face of ACDelco driver Johnny Sauter. Even though he's only been to the D-shaped...

Phoenix perfect fit for Sauter.

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (November 5, 2002) - The thought of racing at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway (PIR) brings a smile to the face of ACDelco driver Johnny Sauter. Even though he's only been to the D-shaped oval one time, he knows the racetrack layout fairly well. Flat, one-mile, lots of corner, little banking - very similar to the old haunts he dominated on the American Speed Association (ASA) circuit last season.

"I had a good idea what to expect last year," Sauter recalls about PIR. "Most of the places we went to race with ASA were a mile long at most, so I knew how to get around. The big thing was that it was flat, and that was definitely something a lot of tracks last year had in common."

Sauter's first trip to Phoenix was definitely one to remember. He was the second highest qualifying rookie (19th), then ran in the top-10 most of the afternoon before getting spunout in turn four late in the event. He still managed an 11th place finish, not bad for a 23-year old Wisconsin native who was competing in only his third NASCAR Busch Series event.

"It was surprising to see how well I got adjusted," adds Sauter. "I guess coming off the end of the season with the ASA championship and everything had me on a high. I don't remember a ton about the race, just that we got spun out late and still finished 11th. I was pretty impressed with that for only my third race, and thought the track fit my driving style."

This Saturday Sauter hopes to surpass his efforts of one year ago and concentrate on bringing home his second Busch win of the 2002 season. A top-five qualifying effort will start the process on Thursday, and Sauter knows that's just what the team needs to get the ball, or car, rolling.

* Sauter's 18th top-20 of the 2002 season last Saturday in Rockingham, N.C., further solidified his 14th place position in the driver's points standings. With only two races to go, Sauter is the only driver in the top-16 with 31 races under his belt. Imagine where the 24-year old rookie would be if he had competed in all 32 events.

* Team ACDelco will take chassis No. 006 to The Grand Canyon State for Saturday's race. This is the same car they raced at Memphis (Tenn.) Motorsports Park three weeks ago where Sauter had a top-three run going until he spun out going for it all with three laps to go and finished 14th.

* Saturday's start time for the Bashas' 200 is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. EST. TV coverage of the 200-lap event on NBC starts at 2:00 p.m., with radio coverage on MRN beginning at 1:30 p.m. Remember times and dates of the race may change, so check your local listings.

ACDelco driver Johnny Sauter on Phoenix International Raceway

What's racing like at Phoenix?
"Phoenix was a lot of fun the first time we went there, although I don't remember everything about it. The end of last season was so crazy with the run for the ASA championship and competing in the five Busch races. I remember the track was flat, just like most of the ASA tracks, and that helped me out a lot going in."

What's crucial for a good set-up?
"The biggest thing about Phoenix is that it's got two different ends. Turns one and two are tight, while three and four are long and sweeping. As far as set-up goes, it's crucial to find a happy medium that will get you through both corners with the least amount of trouble. You're not going to get the set-up perfect. We're taking the same car we ran at Memphis and not changing much as far as set-up goes. We ran well there until I spun myself out with three to go."

ACDelco crew chief Rick Viers on Phoenix International Raceway

What's the toughest thing about Phoenix?
"It's one of those places where there's really no correct set-up because the racetrack is so different from one turn to the next. Your best bet is getting the driver comfortable with a set-up that gets him through them as easy as possible. Luckily, Johnny ran well at Phoenix last year so we're taking a similar set-up between that and what we ran in Memphis."

-rcr-

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Johnny Sauter