What a wild and strange 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season it has been for Johnny Sauter.
To say it’s been a roller coaster of emotions would be a massive understatement. Sauter’s season has been filled with incredible highlights and stunning low-lights. But after a chaotic Friday night in Las Vegas, the 41-year old driver has been officially eliminated from Championship contention after his motor expired after running 45 laps in the race.
Sauter’s night started from the 10th position, and he appeared to have a solid top-10, to potential top-five truck. However, on lap 39 Sauter hit a piece of debris that apparently caused an oil leak in his engine.
This caused his No. 13 truck to burst into flames under the hood. It looked like the night was over, but when he took the truck to the garage, his team realized the motor was still, in fact, running.
They worked on it and Sauter would return to the race track.
Unfortunately, hope was short-lived for the Wisconsin native as his motor would officially expire in a plum of smoke on his first green-flag lap back on track. Sauter would be relegated to just hoping someone else would made a mistake that would allow him to advance in the Playoffs.
As rookie Playoff contender Tyler Ankrum crossed the finish line in 11th, Sauter was officially locked out of the Playoffs. Sauter missed the cut by just two points.
Sauter’s season was nearly over before it even truly began, as he lost his ride at GMS Racing just a couple of weeks before the season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway.
Just as Sauter was coming to grips with the fact that his NASCAR Truck Series career could be over, he was reunited with a familiar team — ThorSport Racing. Sauter drove for the organizations for six seasons (2009 to 2015).
Out of the box, it looked like Sauter would surely avenge GMS’ decision to boot him.
After a crash, while running well at Daytona, Sauter reeled off five-consecutive top-10 finishes — including three top-three finishes — culminating in a victory at Dover. Sauter would beat Moffitt head-to-head for that win.
It was at this moment, where the wheels fell off a bit for the No. 13 team as they suffered a bit of a post-win hangover.
Over the next six races, Sauter would not finish inside the top-10, and he would actually miss a race after he was suspended following his retaliation against Austin Hill in a race at Iowa.
Sauter would stumble into the Playoffs, but had himself in a position to advance to the second round in Las Vegas until the motor came undone.
It’s not the way Sauter envisioned the season going at all, as he had finished inside the top-four of the championship standings in eight of the past nine Truck Series seasons.
But just the fact that he was given an opportunity to race again after losing his ride so close to the start of the season is incredibly noteworthy.