Sauter on his 2016 championship: ‘That’s yesterday’s news’
As Johnny Sauter returned to Florida this week it was a feel-good opportunity in the most literal terms.
He is the reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion and started that title campaign by winning the season opener at Daytona Beach, just down the highway from his visit to Orlando on Thursday under sunny skies and 70-degree temperatures.
“When I drove my kids to school this morning it was 3 degrees,” Sauter joked.
“For me personally, it’s nice to get away from the cold frigid temperatures of Wisconsin, it’s nice to get a little break. I look forward to kicking things off.”
Sauter, 38, was in Florida to drop the puck at the Orlando Solar Bears hockey game, show off his championship trophy … and to get fans thinking about the approaching Daytona Speedweeks.
For the first time in his career Sauter will start the season as a NASCAR champion, however he is emphatic that the title celebration is officially over now.
“I’ve been racing long enough to know I need to put last year behind us because quite frankly, it’s yesterday’s news,” Sauter said. “It’s cool and I’m proud of the accomplishments of a year ago, but we’re on the verge of a new season.”
Collecting a second consecutive trophy in 2017 would be trumping a historical rarity. Matt Crafton is the only driver to win back-to-back truck titles (2013-14) in the series history.
And Sauter’s title hopes are again a moving target with rule enhancements governing the series. Last year NASCAR instituted the popular playoff elimination in the series and for 2017, the sanctioning body has implemented a new — and well-received — format to enhance competition in all three national series. Points will awarded to the top 10 places following two early race segments then distributed again to the entire field based on the checkered flag standings.
“To be completely honest with you, I haven’t studied it a whole lot because at the end of the day, you still have to be there at the finish,” Sauter said. “Yeah, it’s going to be good to win segments, but ultimately if you win a segment and you crash in the third segment and it’s a DNF that’s not good either.
“It’s kind of like we’re in the position we were a year ago with learning the Chase format. No one really knew. Until you do it once you really don’t know what to expect.
“Change is good. Change is inevitable and I’m looking forward to it.”
Sauter’s eagerness to get back on track is easy to hear in his voice. He has won the Daytona season opener twice in the last four years (also in 2013). And while he acknowledges the frantic pace and pure intensity expected of the Feb. 24 NextEra Energy Resources 250 opener at Daytona, he also admits it is a perfect way to start the year.
“Exhilarating,” Sauter says of the experience. “From where I’m sitting that’s the word I would use. It’s only 100 laps of racing. But I promise you’re so focused on what’s going on around you that you find yourself in so many different scenarios, you forget half the things that happened to you until you go back and have a chance to watch a replay of the race. It’s a pretty crazy night.”
“And,” he added, “I have to be honest, I hear it a lot that that the Truck Series puts on the most exciting race and I do think that’s a product of a shorter race and putting the emphasis on getting where you’re going in a hurry.
“Having said that, it’s one of those places, I’ve crashed there before we’ve even completed a lap (2010) then the last couple years I’ve won it twice.
“Anything can happen at Daytona, that’s the tricky part about it and good part about it.”
By Holly Cain | NASCAR.com |
February 03, 2017 at 11.45 AM