Johnny Sauter: Running for the title

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Often misplaced in the chatter of the racing with the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series sits the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. I was presented with the opportunity to speak with two of the standout drivers of the NCWTS, Johnny Sauter and his ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton. For the interview with Matt read: Matt Crafton: "I'd Rather Be Lucky."

Following in the footsteps of his father Jim, Johnny began racing at the age of 18, a decision his father set in motion. The rule in the house was to finish school first before racing and upon graduating that is what Johnny did. From that day on ... Johnny never looked back, racing was his chosen path.

Johnny has had a presence in Sprint Cup, Nationwide and now finds himself in the Camping World Truck Series, where he currently sits second in the points.

Join me in learning more about Johnny Sauter, the man and the racer.

Amanda Ebersole (AE): You only got started driving at the age of 18, and I say only because today’s drivers are starting before they enter kindergarten. How was that a hindrance on your career?
Johnny Sauter (JS): You know I see so many kids now days that race and don’t even know what is going on and they don’t appreciate the opportunities. I think when you get to a certain age you start to respect things a little more. For me, I was able to go to the race track at a younger age with my brothers and just kind of get educated about race cars before I started driving them; I pretty much knew the ins and outs with working on them. I feel like that put me where I needed to be, you can learn what you need to drive in about a year.

AE: So it’s a decision you don’t begrudge your father with making?
JS: Absolutely not! A wise man once told me, my father brought me into the world and he can take me out. 

AE: Coming from a family with 12 children, was that hard for you to then start driving when you turned 18? Meaning financially because as we know, racing is not cheap.
JS: No, my first race car I had, my dad made me pay for everything myself. Obviously in the earlier years, or earlier teenage years I had the option to save the money cause this was something I knew I wanted to do. He (Johnny’s father) was able to help me with all the technological stuff as far as learning about chassis and setups, things like that, the nuts and bolts of it. The financial side of it, I just had lots of good friends and people who wanted to help me try to race. I have never forgotten those people. I think I learned how to race the way they did in the 70s, that was the mentality my father had and I am glad it was that way. I don’t like the way I see racing going and I am glad I got to come up the way that I did.

AE: With your father’s racing career, was he a role model and mentor for you starting out?
JS: Absolutely, no question. I used to go to the track to watch him race all the time. I also have a couple older brothers who raced so hanging out with those guys I learned a lot just by watching. I am a firm believer that too many people don’t sit back, pay attention and watch. They think that they know everything so they automatically jump into doing things when you can learn a lot by sitting back and being quiet and paying attention.

AE: You have raced all the top series in NASCAR: spending years in Sprint Cup, time in Nationwide but now seeming to find your home in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Most drivers prefer to be in the Cup Series, although some of the best racing can be found in the Truck Series.
JS: I never looked at it like that; first time I drove a race car I never had any intentions of being in NASCAR one day. I didn’t care, it was going to the race track and racing. The objective always has and always will be going to the track to be competitive, whether or not you are in Sprint Cup ... I don’t really care. For me it’s about being competitive and you can go to the Truck Series and be competitive.

AE: You don’t care about the labels then, it’s about the racing ... pure and simple!
JS: Yeah I don’t care about the labels. I actually prefer truck racing, it’s a lot more like your local Saturday night short track racing. Not a lot of crowds, a little more laid back, but seems to be harder racing and that is what I prefer.
Johnny, wife Cortney and son Penn during pre-race at Charlotte
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
AE: You and the No. 13 Safe Auto team are having a great start to the year. Earlier you and Crafton were 1 and 2 in points and are currently 2nd and 3rd though you are only  1 point behind Cole Whitt. Is there anything different going on this year?
JS:  I don’t think so, it’s just the fact that I have been there for a couple years now and I am more familiar with my team and with our trucks. Crafton has always been the guy the last couple of seasons that is usually in the top five so I think it's working out to be that way now. Let’s face it, last year we finished 3rd and 4th in points, but the No. 13 truck (and I speak for myself) we got off to a slow start at Daytona and we pretty much played catchup for the rest of the year. I consider us a team that can do this; people just see it now because obviously the way things have shaken out we have both been competitive.

AE: Your win at Martinsville, that had to be a highlight for your year thus far. Winning on Saturday and beating Kyle Busch to do so followed up by the birth of you daughter Paige just days later. By the way that is some victory prize! Can the year get any better?
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR
JS: Absolutely! It can always get better but it can also always get worse. I am not the type of guy that sits around daydreaming about the wins, reality sets in pretty quick with the birth of our daughter. I am the kind of guy it was cool to win Martinsville and yeah it’s something to hang your hat on a bit, but two days after it’s all over and you are onto the next race. Nobody cares what you did yesterday, you know what I mean?

AE: This week you head back to Kansas, where you are the defending race winner. What’s on tap heading back?
JS: We got to do it again! Obviously we go to the race track every week with the intention of trying to sit on the pole and winning the race. I don’t see Kansas being any different, we got to go in there and put the effort forth and see what the weekend brings us.

AE: Is that a track you are “comfortable” with? I know some drivers have certain tracks they feel suits their style better than others.
JS: It just depends on the weekend. There are not a lot of racetracks that I don’t like or dread going into. I guess if I had to pick one of those places it would be Pocono and that really is pretty much the only one I don’t look forward to going to.

AE: I heard you also participated in a tire test at Texas this past week to prepare for the upcoming race. How did things look and did you maybe get some useful information to help you out?
JS: It was good, we had a brand new truck and we are there for Goodyear not our own personal benefits. The tires they brought were great, no wear issues so hopefully everybody will be happy with it when we go back to race. (The Truck Series returns to Texas Motor Speedway the second weekend of June.)

AE: I always heard that the information gained during a tire test can be useful in a race run?
JS: Yeah it absolutely has to. Obviously we are just a leg up on the little things: the splitter on the race track, tire rub and things that we got the bugs worked out. At the track we got a game plan.

AE: This has become my question I have been asking all the drivers thus far. How do you feel about Cup drivers coming to drive in the NCWTS?
JS: I don’t care either way because I know those guys are not unbeatable. I think it is good for the Truck Series and there is no rule against it so to sit here and ponder whether I like or don’t like it doesn’t really matter, I am not the one who makes the rules. It’s something we have to deal with. I rather focus my energy on making our program the best we can and if those guys show up, they show up.

AE: I was reading on your website that you race Late Models. Is that something you still do?
JS: I do it when my schedule permits. I build my own cars, brand new from ground up here at my shop so when I have the car ready to go I will go race. I don’t have a set schedule or anything like that. Last year I ran three races, this year who the hell knows, just whenever there is an off weekend and everything aligns in the schedules.

AE: I also read the section of your website that includes a quote from the "Rocky" movies. What makes you such a fan? This week’s quote was:

" Going one more round when you don't think you can, that's what makes all the difference in your life!”
Rocky Balboa
Rocky IV  (1985)

JS: It’s good stuff. I just think it’s a good story. The dude that is just living life then gets that opportunity and capitalizes on it. It’s not an everyday story. The guy that seems to be pretty normal, works hard and the fruits of his labor pay off. Reality sets back in, he loses everything and goes back to living a normal life. I mean what the heck is wrong with that, you know what I mean? The message is that money isn’t everything. And you know those were movies where they were no cussing, no sex, they were just great movies. That to me is appreciated.

In case you missed the tweets or do not follow Twitter, it was announced that Johnny will be driving the
No. 7 car for Robby Gordon in Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Kansas. The announcement said, "Weekend preview: Johnny Sauter is in the Cup #7 SPEED Energy Dodge at Kansas. FYI , Sauter is currently 2nd in the truck series points."

I would like to thank Johnny for his time in this interview and also his PR rep, Demi, who set everything up for me.

Amanda takes NASCAR seriously and is willing to pass up other activities to watch the boys have at it. NASCAR By the Numbers and In the Rearview Mirror (looking back at NASCAR's history) are Amanda's two main focuses with Skirts and Scuffs, but as an Associate Editor her duties are limitless. Amanda also frequently writes the post-race recaps for Skirts and Scuffs. Feel free to contact Amanda via Twitter.
Johnny Sauter: Running for the title Johnny Sauter: Running for the title Reviewed by Unknown on Friday, June 03, 2011 Rating: 5