A superb sixth at Daytona. DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (July 5, 2002) - Talk about a nice way to start the second half of the racing season. The No. 2 ACDelco Racing team came into the first summer showdown at Daytona International Speedway looking for...
A superb sixth at Daytona.
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (July 5, 2002) - Talk about a nice way to start the second half of the racing season. The No. 2 ACDelco Racing team came into the first summer showdown at Daytona International Speedway looking for a boost to get them back in the hunt for a solid finish in the NASCAR Busch Series Standings. They got it Friday night under the lights when 2002 rookie driver Johnny Sauter finished sixth in the Stacker2/GNC Live Well 250.
Team ACDelco arrived at the racetrack on Wednesday morning with thoughts of a solid qualifying effort for the last superspeedway event of the season. After a strong afternoon practice, Sauter went out 19th in qualifying and blistered a lap of 49.019-seconds. That put him 14th to start the 100-lap event.
Rain on raceday led to a beautiful night in Daytona for the inaugural Busch Series summer event. From the drop of the green flag, Sauter made a charge to the front of the field. He broke into the top-10 on lap three, and was all the way up to second when the first caution flag flew on lap 31.
Sauter radioed that the car was loose in and tight off, so crew chief Rick Viers made the call for four tires and an air pressure adjustment. A tight pit stall and a stray tire on pit road cost him four spots on the restart, putting him sixth when the green flag flew on lap 36.
Once the race got underway again, Sauter was on the move. Staying in the low line, he pushed his way to the front of the pack. He held his position using his side and rearview mirrors, and worked up to the third position by waiting for cars to get out of line and shuffled to the back.
The caution flag flew for the second time on lap 42. Watching the leaders, Viers told Sauter to pit if they did. When the No. 87 car made the move, Sauter followed. After a splash of gas, the blue and white racing machine was in and out of the pit box in the blink of an eye. As Sauter got back up to speed on pit road, he brushed the No. 92 car that was diving into its pit. Not wanting to have a tire go down, Viers told Sauter to come back down pit road to check for damage. Everything was okay, but the extra stop dropped him back to the 25th position for the restart on lap 47.
The tangle with the No. 92 car turned out to be a blessing for Team ACDelco. Four laps into the restart, some of the top cars (where Sauter would have been) were involved in a wreck on lap 47 that brought out the third caution of the night. Sauter picked up five spots getting through the debris, putting him 20th for the restart on lap 52.
During the next green flag run, Sauter showed that his No. 2 Chevy was not going to back down. Using different partners to push him forward, he remained in the bottom line and made his way forward. Lap after lap, he picked up spots and was all the way to eighth when a big wreck on the frontstretch on lap 83 brought out another caution.
Sauter new it was time to go for it all after the restart on lap 90. He broke out of the pack and tried the high line with help from the No. 1 car, but it wasn't working. His best bet was to stay in the low line, protect his bottom, and wait for someone in front of him to get shoved to the outside.
After clearing the No. 92 car for the sixth position with five to go, Sauter avoided another big wreck when the No. 24 and 92 cars got together in turn two. The race was then red-flagged to clean up debris.
Sauter was in sixth position when the race went green again on lap 98. He held the bottom line the best he could, trying to look for a mistake from one of the contenders in front of him so he could move up in line. Everyone held their spot, and Sauter grabbed his second top-10 of the season.
Joe Nemecek came away with his 12th Busch Series victory, followed by Greg Biffle, Kevin Lepage, Jason Keller, and Jamie McMurray.
"It was a great run for this ACDelco team," the rookie-of-the-race said on pit road. "Richard Childress gave me a great car and I really thought we had the one to beat tonight. The car was aero-tight in the corners. Every time I would make a move high I couldn't get by. For the most part, it was a one-groove track. The best thing for me was to stay in the bottom line and hope someone made a mistake.
"I really like this superspeedway racing. Now that I know what it's like to be competitive, I'm gaining a bunch of confidence. This kind of finish is exactly what this team needed. We've struggled a bit in the first half of the season, but hopefully this can get us turned around. I see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Next up for Johnny Sauter and Team ACDelco...the windy city, Chicago, Ill., for the Tropicana Twister 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday, July 13th. The event is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. EDT on NBC. If you can't get to a TV, check your local MRN affiliate beginning at 3:00 p.m. Remember, times and dates of the race may change so be sure to check your local listings.