Rookie Johnny Sauter Rewrote ASA Record Book in 2001 23-year-old is first driver to win rookie title, National Championship in same year PENDLETON, Ind. (October 3, 2001) ^Ã— Rookie Johnny Sauter made history in 2001. He nearly achieved...
Rookie Johnny Sauter Rewrote ASA Record Book in 2001
23-year-old is first driver to win rookie title, National Championship in same year
PENDLETON, Ind. (October 3, 2001) ^× Rookie Johnny Sauter made history in 2001. He nearly achieved immortal status as the 23-year-old Wisconsin driver may have turned in the most impressive ASA ACDelco Series season ever recorded. He all but destroyed every rookie record set in previous years by such rookies as Scott Hansen, Kevin Cywinski and Steve Carlson and topped all time records set by Mike Eddy, Bob Senneker and Butch Miller. On top of that, he became the first rookie in ASA's 34-year history to win the coveted Pat Schauer Memorial Rookie of the Year and National Championship in the same season.
Sauter's season started out on top, capturing his second career pole and leading 120 laps at St. Augustine (Fla.) Speedway before finishing fourth. Two races later, after two dismal performances, Sauter would see himself as low in the points as he would get, 17th heading to South Boston (Va.) Speedway. But that wouldn't last long, as Sauter soon became the fourth member of his family to earn a checkered flag in ASA competition, joining father Jim and brothers Tim and Jay.
Sauter would end the year with six all-time records and nine rookie records, including his 10 wins, beating the mark of nine victories set by ASA legends Senneker and Miller in 1984 and 1987, respectively. It also beat the modern era record, which was held by Hansen when he won seven races in 1998. Five of those wins came in succession, starting at Concord Motorsport Park in May, the first ASA driver to win five consecutive events.
Sauter would go on to tie Gary St. Amant for the most podium finishes in a season, collecting 13, the same number St. Amant collected in winning the ASA National Championship in 1998, and earning 10 consecutive podiums, also an ASA record.
His 10th victory of the year wrapped up his first ASA National Championship and second in three years for car owner Alec Pinsonneault, who won the 1999 ASA National Championship in 1999 with Johnny's older brother Tim, making them the only brothers to ever win ASA Championships.
When Sauter collects his $200,000 check for the ASA National Championship, and the $50,000 bonus for the Pat Schauer Rookie of the Year award at the National Awards Banquet in December, he will have pocketed a total of $501,000, the first driver in ASA history to eclipse the half-million mark in single-season earnings. His career earnings are now good for 16th on the all-time list.
When it comes to rookie records, Sauter now owns nearly every one, with the exception of DNFs. Sauter's 10 wins, four poles, 13 podiums, 15 top fives, 16 top 10s and 2,039 laps led are all rookie records. He had one DNF in 2001.
Sauter became only the second driver in ASA history to lead more than 2,000 laps in one season. Seven-time ASA National Champion Mike Eddy led 2,183 laps in 1992. Sauter led 35.77 percent of all laps run in 2001 (fifth best all time), including 451 of 600 laps run at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in 2001.
"It is just a testament to the kind of team we had this year working on the car," said Sauter. "(Car owner) Alec Pinsonneault gave us everything we could need this year. He gives you what you need, the necessary tools and the right people. He was always behind us 100 percent. I thought this team could win one-to-three races. In the back of my mind, and I never said this, I thought we could compete for three-to-five wins, actually. But to win five-in-a-row and 10 total, I would have never have dreamed that. It is just a testament to what we have here."