The last couple of weeks have been busy for Johnny Sauter. The Necedah, WI native won his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race of the year, then 48 hours later, his wife Cortney gave birth to their second child, a baby girl. Both are something that he will not forget, just like he will not forget what happened ten years ago.
"I think that is the year that pretty much put me on the map," Sauter said when he was asked if recalled his 2001 ASA National Championship season. "Man, I cannot believe it was ten years ago. That was a big year, and everything seemed to go right. Hopefully, we can duplicate the same success this year."
During the 2001 season, Sauter set some new records. He had ten wins, 13 podium finishes in which he had ten in a row, four poles, 15 top-five finishes, 16 top-ten finishes, 2,039 laps led (35.77% of all laps run in 2001), and only one DNF.
That particular DNF came at Irwindale, and that worried him. "I still remember it to this day," Sauter recalled. "We were out there running second and blew a right-front tire and hit the wall. After the third or fourth race of the year, we were running 17th in the points. I was sweating about losing my job cause we were fast, and we were not finishing races. Then we won the fifth race of the year and went a roll after that. It is amazing to think that you are down and out, nothing is going to go your way, then it turns around, and you cannot do anything wrong. It is pretty wild how this sport works."
Like many race fans, Sauter misses the old ASA National Tour. "Yeah I do. I miss it as a competitor, but I miss watching those races as a fan as well," Sauter said. "It was good entertainment obviously, but I am still a big fan of short track racing. It is a bummer that it is no longer here, but there have been plenty of people who have come along to try to fill a void and they are doing a good job at that."
Even with the ASA transitioning from a single racing series to a sanctioning body, Sauter still is able to compete at ASA sanctioned events when his time allows. Especially with the ASA Midwest Tour. Sauter has competed in at least one event every year since the series started in 2007. Last year, he held off two-time series champion Steve Carlson to win the Dixieland 150 event at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna, WI.
"I have been able to sneak back to the Midwest and run some short track races. It was fun to get back into it after taking 6-7 years off," Sauter said. "I decided, since I am a competitor, that if I am going to do this I will build my own car and do it out of my house. People do not believe me when I say this, but winning at Kaukauna and winning the Dixieland 150, I can rank that right up there with any win I have had. Just because, as a kid, when I went to that racetrack and sat in the stands to watch my old man race there, it brought back a lot of memories, and winning there was right up there. I just love short track racing."
Sauter admitted that he watched the Dixieland 150 before he left for Martinsville. He also said that he is building a new short track car now as he recently sold his other one to Joe Nemechek for his son John.
With a new baby in the house, his free time is limited and is not sure if he will have the new car ready for the Joe Shear Classic, the opening event for the ASA Midwest Tour on May 1 at Madison International Speedway in Oregon, WI. A race that he would like to participate in as it is named after his Truck Series crew chief's father.
"I think it is really cool that the ASA Midwest Tour has that race in Joe Shear Jr. dad's honor," Sauter said. "Last year, we wanted to get up there and run that race, but we were in Kansas with the truck and we won there. Joe's father was a successful short track racer and obviously taught Joe Jr. a lot about racing and a lot about race cars. A lot of my success, pretty much anywhere I have been, has been with Little Joe. I do not know what it is, but we seemed to have hit it off. He is almost like a little brother, we can sit there and fight, yell, and scream at each other one minute. Then the next minute we are celebrating winning races. We have a unique chemistry that always seems to work. His setups match my driving style, and it means a lot to me for him to be a part of our program."
One event that Sauter is hoping to compete in this year is the annual Oktoberfest Race Weekend at La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem, WI. The season finale event for the ASA Midwest Tour. "We have competed in numerous Oktoberfest events where we finished third or fourth. I thought we had it won in 2002, but I had a flat tire," Sauter recalled. "I am going to win that race someday. I am pretty confident that we will be there in 2011 to try to get that done."
Sauter will be back in the truck this weekend competing at Nashville Super Speedway. He enters the event as the Truck Series points leader. He holds a five-point lead over his teammate Matt Crafton. He won an ASA race at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and would like to have another Gibson guitar for his collection.
Johnny Sauter will also be a guest on "This Week in ASA Racing" this Thursday night at 7pm Eastern on RaceTalkRadio.com.
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