BUSCH: Las Vegas: Johnny Sauter - NASCAR spotlight

Hot start, past success at Las Vegas lead to early title hopes for Johnny Sauter. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2003) -- Johnny Sauter has been here before. Early in the season, the second-year driver is again in the thick of the points battle...

Hot start, past success at Las Vegas lead to early title hopes for Johnny Sauter.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2003) -- Johnny Sauter has been here before.

Early in the season, the second-year driver is again in the thick of the points battle for the NASCAR Busch Series championship. Following last year's Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas -- where he finished third -- Sauter ranked sixth in the driver point standings.

However, four finishes of 30th or worse dropped Sauter to 20th in the point standings following the season's 14th race at Dover. But with his rookie season behind him, and the confidence gained from his career-first win last year at Chicago -- a low-banked 1.5-mile track similar to Las Vegas -- Sauter has renewed hope.

"I'm excited to return to Las Vegas," Sauter said. "I'm very optimistic about my chances. So far we've had two great races, and I feel like I'm riding some momentum going into Vegas."

Two consecutive top-10 finishes has given Sauter a sixth-place standing in the points. Theoretically, however, the Wisconsin native sits third as current point leader Jaime McMurray (No. 1 Yellow Transportation Dodge) -- who won Monday's postponed Rockingham 200 -- is running a limited NASCAR Busch Series schedule while he competes in his first full season in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

"Consistency is the name of the game," Sauter said. "As long as we keep having top-10 finishes with some wins and top fives thrown in there, the points will take care of themselves."

And thanks to a unique agreement, which puts Sauter in Richard Childress Racing's No. 21 PayDay Chevrolet for 19 races and Curb Agajanian Motorsports' No. 43 Channellock Chevrolet for the remaining 14 races, Sauter still has a chance to win the driver point championship.

"Winning the championship is a dream," Sauter said. "I'm in a real exceptional situation right now. I have a chance to be in the mix for the driver championship and the owner championship while driving two cars. The goal for the No. 21 team is to win the owner title with Kevin Harvick (driving the other 14 races) and myself. The No. 43 team gives me a chance to stay in the mix in the driver championship, and possibly have a shot at the title by season's end.

"My main focus is on the No. 21 PayDay team," said Sauter, who will make his first start in the No. 21 at Darlington. "The benefit of driving for two teams is that I'm getting seat time. As long as I'm racing, I'm happy."

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jamie McMurray , Johnny Sauter