Tim Sauter 24th at Phoenix April 21st, Phoenix International Raceway. There were anxious moments Saturday afternoon for Ricky Pearson and the McGill Motorsports team. Tim Sauter began his qualifying run for the Bashas' 200 when an ...
Tim Sauter 24th at Phoenix
April 21st, Phoenix International Raceway. There were anxious moments Saturday afternoon for Ricky Pearson and the McGill Motorsports team. Tim Sauter began his qualifying run for the Bashas' 200 when an electrical problem developed as he headed down the backstretch. Tim coasted around to the attention of the crew without taking the green thus preserving his one chance to qualify for the event. Pearson was able to repair the engine kill-switch and Sauter was allowed to get back in line, had Pearson not quickly resolved the problem, the 36 team would have been forced to make the long journey back to the Carolinas without making the race. Once the car re-fired, Sauter put the silver #36 solidly in the field with a 28.15 second attempt on the flat one-mile oval.
The Bashas' 200 got started in the twilight of the desert sun, the McGill Motorsports Chevy starting in the 28th position. At the drop of the green, Tim was able to hold his position, but soon the car became tight off the corner. During an early caution on lap 17, Tim brought the car to pit lane for a chassis adjustment to loosen up the car until the next round of pit stops when they planned to change tires. The race stayed green and Tim was able to stay on the lead lap until lap 55 when leader Jason Leffler put the Wisconsin driver a lap down.
A smart call by Pearson kept the 36 only one lap behind the leaders as he instructed Sauter to stay on the track until the all of the other cars had made green flag stops. "I was begging Ricky to let me pit about lap 90," Sauter said "Tim, give me five laps," was Pearson's response. The strategy worked perfectly as Tim was only two laps from coming in for fresh tires when the caution came out on lap 93.
The crew made changes on each pit stop throughout the evening and consistently improved the handling for Tim, who was able to stay one lap down throughout the race. "The handling of the car improved as the sun set and the lights came on, but we lost that lap early and it cost us some positions. Had we been able to be a little closer with the handling on the first run, I think could have finished in the top 20," Sauter said after the race. "That's the challenge with these rules. Since we're not in the top-30 in owners points we have to set the car up to qualify and not specifically for the race. NASCAR lets us make minor adjustments after qualifying, but it takes a stop or two to get the car handling good in race trim. If you can stay on the lead lap early, you can usually put yourself in position for a good finish."
Tim finished the event in 24th, one lap down to Kevin Harvick who won his second NASCAR Busch Series race in a row. Twelve of the top fifteen finishers were Cup regulars, many of whom use the event as a test session for the Cup race on Saturday.
High banks and wide open racing are up next for Tim Sauter as the NASCAR Busch Series travels to Talladega, AL for the Aaron's 312 on April 29th. The McGill Motorsports team will bring the same Lester Buildings Monte Carlo SS that finished 19th at Daytona back in February. "I think we will have a good piece for Talladega. We didn't tear-up the car, and a lot of teams who wrecked on that last lap crash at Daytona will be bringing untested new cars. We'll need to qualify for that race, so I'm glad we are bringing a proven car back," explained Sauter. "The next couple races should be good for us, I think we can show what this team is capable of. All we need is a solid run to get ourselves back into the top-30 and take the pressure off of qualifying."