Tundra driver Johnny Sauter earned his second win of the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) season in only the second race of the year on Saturday at Martinsville Speedway. Sauter is the second driver in NCWTS history to win back-to-back races in the first two races of the season — Mark Martin was the first in 2006.
Sauter led once for 17 laps (of 250) en route to his eighth career NCWTS win and second of his career at the .526 Virginia short track.
Tundra drivers Matt Crafton (second), Timothy Peters (fourth) and Darrell Wallace Jr. (fifth) also finished in the top-five at Martinsville.
Sixteen-year-old Erik Jones finished ninth in his first career NCWTS start driving the Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 51 Tundra.
Toyota drivers Todd Bodine (11th), David Starr (13th), Joey Coulter (15th), Kenny Habul (26th), Grant Galloway (27th), German Quiroga (29th) and John Wes Townley (32nd) were also in the field.
JOHNNY SAUTER, No. 98 Carolina Nut Company/Curb Records, ThorSport Racing | Finishing Position: 1st
How were you able to get to the lead in the closing laps? “I tried to time it just right and that’s the key. So proud of everybody on this Carolina Nut/Curb Records Toyota – everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development), Triad Racing motors, all of our sponsors and all the guys at the shop. They have been working really, really hard. It was a long day. Our tire wear was amazing and we kind of had a feeling it was going to be like that all day. My wife and son are here and it’s the first win for him. Just proud of everybody — Duke and Rhonda Thorson (team owners), Mike Curb and everybody that helps us with this Toyota. Two for two starting out – this is unbelievable.”
What was your plan to get the lead on the final restart? “I knew that it was important to get a good restart and I rode it in third gear and he (Jeb Burton) got ahead of me there and I shifted to fourth and I drove it down there good and hard. The truck stuck. We had a really fast truck yesterday in practice and we knew it. Today I knew it was going to be about track position and just keeping the truck underneath you. Tire wear was amazing. Tires were really falling off today so I wasn’t sure how hard to push it there when we were sitting 18th I think with 80 laps to go after the pit stop and I thought, ‘Oh boy, I got my work cut out for me.’ Just proud of Joe (Shear, crew chief) and all these guys — everybody at ThorSport. A great day for us — a one-two finish and I’m standing here with my second clock at Martinsville — this is unbelievable.”
How were you able to keep your patience during the Ross Chastain contact? “I’ve been trying to do that all year — keep the patience. Ross (Chastain) has obviously got to use his head a little bit better than that. I was clearly inside of him and I’m going to have to talk to him a little bit about that, but nonetheless just proud of all these guys. This is Martinsville, you’re going to have close quarters racing with people running into each other and knocking fenders in and all that. You just hope you’re the lucky one at the end of the day that doesn’t get a flat and you have enough body left to keep it turning.”
Did you ever think winning the first two races would be possible? “No. With Daytona being an Achilles heel for us — just getting to the finish — I always run well, but to finish that race with a win was remarkable. To come here to Martinsville — I know we always run well here, but getting to the finish is just the key here sometimes. To have our two wins in a row back to back — I could not be more proud of everybody at ThorSport. They’ve been working hard and just proud of David Pepper (general manager) and everybody that is part of this organization and makes it go.”
What did you think of Jeb Burton in the closing laps? “It’s really hard to pay attention to whose doing what. I definitely could see when I got to second that he (Jeb Burton) was loose off the corner and was really trying to drive aggressively. He was coming off the corner at a 45-degree angle there for a few laps and I thought, ‘Oh yeah.’ Quite frankly, when I was running second behind him, I could have passed him and when the caution came out I thought I screwed up and now I’m in the outside groove. The outside groove really wasn’t getting going today. Just got a good restart and he got a little loose and I had seen him loose when we were under green. I knew it was just going to be a matter of time. I had saved enough truck and tire there at the end, and I ran a Late Model race at Myrtle Beach a few weeks ago and tire conservation there was more than anything in the world at any race track I had ever raced at. I really think that helped me here today.”
Do you feel like ‘lady luck’ is on your side this season? “I don’t know. We had a lot of mechanical failures last year or whatever bad luck you want to call it. This race in particular — both races here last year we were running in the top-five and had trouble. Broke power steering one race and broke a spindle one race. I just feel like if everybody gives 100 percent and when you do the best job that you can, whatever happens at the end of the day is what happens. I have all the confidence in the world in Joe (Shear, crew chief) and everybody at ThorSport and when we get to the race track we typically unload pretty good and only make the truck better from there. I don’t know — I think you have to be lucky at times, but I don’t like to talk about it too much. I don’t want to jinx anything. We’ll just take it all in stride. This is great to start the year off with two in a row and I couldn’t be prouder. We still have 20 races left and there’s a lot that can happen. We just need to keep it all in focus and take it all in stride and go to Rockingham where we finished fourth a year ago and go in Kansas where we’ve won in the past. A lot of good race tracks coming up for us — we just have to keep everybody grounded and keep everybody hungry.”
JOE SHEAR, crew chief, No. 98 Carolina Nut Company/Curb Records Toyota Tundra, ThorSport Racing
Did you expect the truck to be as strong as it was at the end of the race? “After practice we kind of knew this tire was going to be tricky. We kept watching Cup practice to see if rubber was going to be put down and we really didn’t see a lot. We were really pretty nervous because even though we got a lot of practice it didn’t seem like enough practice for a new tire. Anyways, we came out pretty good and we had a pretty good strategy. Our strategy was really to take it easy, race the race track instead of everybody else. I got a little nervous about getting back in track position there, but I have to admit Johnny Sauter is growing up with me. He’s not really known for saving equipment and he saved a lot more today than I gave him credit for. I really didn’t think our truck was that fast. I thought it was good, but I didn’t think it was as fast as it was at the end. Then we had some pretty good lap times there at the end. I was pretty impressed.”
MATT CRAFTON, No. 88 Rip It Energy Fuel/Menards Toyota Tundra, ThorSport Racing | Finishing Position: 2nd
How was your race? “We had a terrible truck on the very first run. We almost went a lap down. That just says never die that this Menards ThorSport team has. We saved our set of tires there to the end and it was go time. It was great for Johnny (Sauter) and them to be over in victory lane, but man I thought we were going to have something for him and I was just a little bit too free on that last run to try to run him down. It was one heck of a show hopefully.”
Did you make contact with John Wes Townley? “I did. I got into him in the middle of the corner and I tried to back off of him and I think it was the 94 (Chase Elliott) that was behind me and he piled in to the back of me and I was literally on my brakes, off the gas and I’m like, ‘I’m along for the ride now, dude.’ Like I said, I definitely did not mean to wreck him. I did not finish him there at the end. Hopefully he’ll watch a replay and see the other side of it.”
What does it say about ThorSport Racing to get a one-two finish at Martinsville? “Yeah, very good for ThorSport Racing. It just shows what this team — the ThorSport Racing organization — what we’re going to have this year in 2013. We’re going to be a championship contending team — both of us, Johnny (Sauter) and I. This Menards truck was terrible in the first run, but it just shows how good these guys are working on this truck and it was there at the end.”
What did you think of the race tire? “I know Goodyear catches flack sometimes, but they brought one hell of a race tire for this place. It is one awesome race tire. It’s the best race tire I’ve ever been on at Martinsville. If you drive it hard early, it goes away. If you save your stuff and just don’t slip the tires, it will come in at the end and that’s what Johnny (Sauter) did. He was just on the other end of the stick.”
TIMOTHY PETERS, No. 17 Parts Plus Toyota Tundra, Red Horse Racing | Finishing Position: 4th
How was your truck in the race? “We had a really strong Parts Plus Tundra. We just came a fuzz too early to pit road. The guys worked hard and we’re onto something here. Just a completely different setup and happy with the way everything went today and came up a little bit too short. After Daytona this is awesome to build on going into the next two weeks. Just proud of everybody. If you can beat (Johnny) Sauter here — he’s always been tough. He’s off to a roll. Obviously, he proved today that the Daytona curse don’t have a curse.”
What adjustments did your team make to the truck? “We made a track bar adjustment there on the end, but we kept riding. I don’t think I rode enough. The driver is going to have to go back and watch the replay and work on his right foot a little more.”
DARRELL WALLACE JR., No. 54 ToyotaCare Toyota Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports | Finishing Position: 5th
Are you satisfied with a fifth-place finish today? “I’ll take it. It’s a top-five for us at Martinsville. Can’t thank Jerry (Baxter, crew chief) and the guys enough for making great calls all race long. We got the lead there late in the race and then come down to the pits and stuck on brand new tires and we got tight on that last restart and just couldn’t really do nothing with them. I found out these boys don’t play around when they’re trying to go. I know I was getting about three or four shots from (Kevin) Harvick and I know he was trying to get by me. It was good fun racing. It was a lot of fun racing with those guys and congrats to (Johnny) Sauter. We’ll be at Rockingham next weekend with another force to reckon with.”
What did you learn the most in your first start at Martinsville? “I learned a lot. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing, but it’s all about tire management here and taking care of that right front (tire) and also the right rear (tire). So, it’s a lot that goes into it, but it was a good day in the ToyotaCare Tundra. Can’t thank these guys enough again for coming on board and we’ll be back with them again next weekend.”
ERIK JONES, No. 51 Toyota Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports | Finishing Position: 9th
How was your first career Truck race? “We had a strong truck all day and our Toyota Tundra was fast from the beginning. That second set of tires that we put on – we lost a little bit of forward drive, but that was about it. Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) did a good job of getting it back to where it needed to be. That last set of tires that we put on — we had to start back in the field, but we got lucky and started on the bottom and drove back up into the top-10. We were running sixth and got rooted off the bottom and fell back to ninth, but I can’t complain with it being my first truck race and getting a top-10 out of it. Happy to come home with the truck in one piece and ready to head to Rockingham.”
JOEY COULTER, No. 18 Darrell Gwynn Foundation Toyota Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports | Finishing Position: 15th
How was the race? “It was a long one, that’s for sure. I thought we were going to be in pretty good shape but the incident on pit road, which was my fault, put us behind and caused us to play catch-up. Harold (Holly, crew chief) did a great job keeping up with the truck though and we were able to get our lap back. I really thought we were going to be good there at the end, but everyone started slamming into each other, we got knocked around, and just had to fight for what we had left at that point. We will keep digging. We have gotten ourselves out of holes like this before, it’s still early.”