BUSCH: Madison: Johnny Sauter - NASCAR spotlight

Rookie Sauter coming off first career NASCAR Busch Series win; history on his side at Gateway for Charter Pipeline 250 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 18, 2002) - NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division rookie Johnny Sauter has endured a...

Rookie Sauter coming off first career NASCAR Busch Series win; history on his side at Gateway for Charter Pipeline 250

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 18, 2002) - NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division rookie Johnny Sauter has endured a tumultuous season, but suddenly finds momentum and history on his side.

Sauter, the 24-year-old Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate from Necedah, Wisc., is fresh off his first career NASCAR Busch Series win last week at Chicagoland Speedway and heads to Saturday's Charter Pipeline 250 at Gateway International Raceway where the Richard Childress-owned No. 2 AC Delco Chevrolet he now drives has won the last two races in the five-year history of the event.

Kevin Harvick captured those two wins for RCR at Gateway and Sauter actually has a little more history on his side. AC Delco has been the primary sponsor of the winning car the last four years as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and DEI were backed by the company during his back-to-back wins in 1998 and' 99.

"I guess this car knows how to win in St. Louis," Sauter said."I don't know how we are going to run, but I like the odds we have when it comes to winning the race. To have this sponsor in Victory Lane so many times - and RCR the past two times - is pretty neat... History is definitely on our side."

Sauter has exhibited the promise and talent that earned him the ASA championship as a rookie in 2001, but his season also has been plagued by inconsistency and accidents.

The highlights, in addition to his victory, have been his first career NASCAR Busch Series pole at Talladega, a third-place finish at Las Vegas and a sixth at the recent July event at Daytona. He also had the opportunity to race against his father, Jim, and brothers, Jay and Tim, at Milwaukee, becoming only the second family to have four members compete in a NASCAR national series event.

On the flip side, he has finished outside the top 20 seven times and has five DNFs, all due to accidents.

"It's not what I envisioned, but I think things are definitely getting better," Sauter said."I wanted to have won a few races and be in the top 10 right now, but some bad wrecks have prevented that. We've been having a little bit of a tough time this season since Talladega (in late April), but we all knew things would work out. We've built up a little momentum over the last two races, and at Daytona I thought we had the car to beat."

Sauter currently is 14th in the NASCAR Busch Series championship point race - just 47 points from 12th - and second to Scott Riggs (No. 10 Nestle Nesquik Ford) in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings, but may be turning the corner.

He has posted three consecutive finishes among the top 12 - dating to his 12th-place effort at Milwaukee - and moved up seven positions in the championship race during that span. He now is just 265 points from cracking the top 10.

"We are coming off some great runs, and I really think we are going to turn things around the second half of the season," said Sauter, who will use the same chassis they raced at Milwaukee."We know what we need to do - be competitive and finish up front - and I think we are capable of that. We just need to stay focused and make that happen."

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Kevin Harvick , Scott Riggs , Johnny Sauter