BUSCH: Talladega: Johnny Sauter preview

April 16, 2002 (Huntersville, N.C.) - When Johnny Sauter and the No. 2 ACDelco Racing team left Daytona International Speedway in mid-February, they were disappointed. In their first race together on a high-banked superspeedway, they were a ...

April 16, 2002 (Huntersville, N.C.) - When Johnny Sauter and the No. 2 ACDelco Racing team left Daytona International Speedway in mid-February, they were disappointed. In their first race together on a high-banked superspeedway, they were a contender until the No. 18 car got into Sauter and damaged the body of his car. As they prepare for Talladega Superspeedway, the team looks to use that experience to put the blue and white racing machine in contention for the win.

"Daytona was tough because we knew we had a good racecar and we were running up front," says Sauter. "After the 18 got into us, it screwed up the body and created an aero-problem. I think going into Talladega we have to keep in mind what happened in Daytona and know we need to avoid the wrecks to make sure we are there at the end."

Although this will be Sauter's first trip to Talladega Superspeedway, he thinks he has a good idea of how to conquer the 2.66-mile quadoval. After running Daytona, he says he's gained a tremendous amount of experience and plans on transferring that over to this weekend's event.

"I think about 95% of what I learned in Daytona will help me, which will definitely make things easier," adds Sauter. "This still will be a new experience for me, and I know it's not something you can learn overnight. You have to get a feel for this track and know where and when to make moves. Those are the things I will need to work on to have a chance at the checkered flag."

Crew chief Ricky Viers agrees that the team took a lot from Daytona, but knows Talladega will still be a challenge. "The big things we'll focus on this weekend will be working on Johnny's patience and trying to figure out our pit strategy. We know from Daytona that we're capable of running in the top-five. The thing to remember is that the last 30 laps is what counts."

It's easy to see that this team has the ability to run strong, they just need to be patient and stay out of trouble early. If Team ACDelco can keep the car close to the front of the pack as the race comes to a close, they'll have a good opportunity to claim their first victory of the 2002 season.

* The No. 2 ACDelco Racing team will take chassis No.016 to Talladega, AL. This car, built last year, has only been raced three times, most recently at the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

* Saturday's Aaron's 312 is scheduled to start at 2 PM ET. TV coverage of the 117-lap event on FOX will begin at 1:30 PM ET with radio coverage on MRN starting at 1 PM ET. Remember times and dates of the race may change, so check your local listings.

ACDelco driver Johnny Sauter on Talladega Superspeedway

What's your first impression of Talladega Superspeedway?

"Fast. From what everybody tells me you can run around the place wide-open and the car will stick to the racetrack like glue. Engines, obviously, play a big factor and you need to have the horsepower to be able to contend with the big boys. They say it really doesn't matter how the car is handling, you just have to be able to hold on."

How do you feel about drafting?

"The draft is a rush. Even though I've only been through it once at Daytona, I really thought it was cool. At first, it was hard to adjust to it because I wasn't used to how the car was going to handle. I have to do a lot more looking ahead and planning my next move. I have to know what I'm going to do in (turns) three and four when I'm still in (turns) one and two."

Who, if anyone, do you think your friends will be during the race?

"That's a tough question. The one problem I ran into at Daytona was that no one wanted to draft with me because I was a rookie. I don't know if they thought I wouldn't be able to handle it or what, but they kept hanging me out to dry. The way we've run this season, though, I think everyone has a little more faith in me. If it came down to it, I think my ACDelco Chevy would be good enough to make a move on its own."

ACDelco crew chief Ricky Viers on Talladega Superspeedway

Give us your thoughts on the biggest racetrack on the circuit? "Talladega is a place where you've got to have good engines. If you have one, you can run around the place wide-open the whole time, even if you're loose or tight, and still compete. There are a lot of things to think about - less drag, shock packages, the body, horsepower - so we'll have to put our thinking caps back on. If we can keep Johnny in it with good pit strategy and avoid the big wreck, I think we'll have a good chance of finishing up front."


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Drivers Johnny Sauter