BUSCH: Darlington II: Johnny Sauter preview

Earning your stripes. HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (August 28, 2002) - Throughout the 2002 NASCAR Busch Series season, ACDelco driver Johnny Sauter has had to don yellow stripes on the rear bumper of his Richard Childress owned No. 2 Chevrolet Monte ...

Earning your stripes.

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (August 28, 2002) - Throughout the 2002 NASCAR Busch Series season, ACDelco driver Johnny Sauter has had to don yellow stripes on the rear bumper of his Richard Childress owned No. 2 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. They denote one thing, that the 24-year old Necedah, Wis., native is a "rookie".

Sauter doesn't mind the label. In fact, he proved last year in his first full season on the American Speed Association (ASA) circuit that it really doesn't matter. With rookie stripes on the back of his No. 19 Chevy, he won both Rookie-of-the-Year honors and the overall championship. This year the results have not been quite as spectacular, but he's happy with how far he's come.

"This season has definitely not been what I envisioned," says Sauter. "I wanted to have won a few races and be in the top-10 in points, but a few bad wrecks have kept us out of the mix. We've had some high points with our pole and win. There's a chance of a top-10 finish now that we are heading back to familiar places like Darlington. I was happy with my performance there the first time, and should be able to improve on it when we go back this week."

Sauter certainly didn't look like a rookie in his first trip to the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval earlier in the season. He finished a respectable 11th after starting from the same spot. He was the highest finishing rookie out of the six in the field, and was the only one to finish on the lead lap.

The Lady in Black is certainly going to be an added competitor when the green flag drops on Saturday afternoon, but Sauter knows from his first encounter with her that he can do battle. If he can keep the sides of his racecar away from the track known for giving out stripes, he has a chance to duplicate, if not better, his efforts from the spring.

* After Saturday's 1-800-PIT-SHOP.com 200, Sauter will depart for St. Paul, Minn., to compete in the ASA race at Minnesota State Fair Speedway on Monday, September 2nd. He will drive the No. 19 johnnysauter.com Chevrolet he's been building throughout the year.

* Team ACDelco will take chassis No. 010 to Darlington, S.C., to try and subdue the track "too tough to tame". This car, last run at Michigan Speedway, is the same one they took to Darlington in March. It is also the same car they won with at Chicagoland Speedway in July.

* Start time for Saturday's 1-800-PIT-SHOP.com 200 is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. EDT. TV coverage of the 200-lap event on TNT starts at 1:00 p.m., with radio coverage on MRN beginning at 12:30 p.m. Remember times and dates of the race may change, so check your local listings.

ACDelco driver Johnny Sauter on Darlington Raceway

How was your first experience at Darlington?

"It was pretty much about survival.  Since it was my first race, I tried my
best just to learn how to pass cars.  The tires go away so fast there that
every lap was different.  There are different sweet spots on the track to
gain momentum.  Just to be able to finish was a big deal for me."

What do you think of the racetrack?

"I really like the history of the place. Hearing about all the bad boys that raced there, and how special it was for them. I definitely found it hard to pass, which doesn't make it a very racy track. It's unique and completely different than anywhere else we go. The tires go away quickly and you tend to slip and slide all over. It's actually one of my favorite places to go."

How excited are you about getting back in an ASA car?

"Right now it's not as much excited as worried. I'm not totally finished with the car yet so I'm running around to get everything done. I'm definitely looking forward to going, though. I had a chance to win that race last year until I got spun-out on a restart. It'll be exciting to see some old friends and race in a no-pressure situation. We should come away with a good run."

ACDelco crew chief Rick Viers on Darlington Raceway

What's the key to a good car at Darlington?

"Getting the car to turn in the corners. You can't be tight at Darlington, so you need to make sure the car has plenty of grip. The best way to make sure of that is with a good shock and spring package underneath the car. We tested there at the beginning of the season and worked on a lot of different combinations. That helped us run well the first time. I'd like to do that again."

-rcr-

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Johnny Sauter