Johnny Sauter comes home, captures Trickle 99 at Oktoberfest

WEST SALEM — Johnny Sauter has raced at NASCAR’s highest levels — Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series — and done well at each, including winning a Camping World Truck championship.

When it comes to competing at the Oktoberfest Racing Weekend, however, there is something that tugs at Sauter’s homegrown Wisconsin roots.

That was evident Friday night when the DeForest, Wis., man won the highly popular three-segment race called the Dick Trickle 99, which is named after the legendary Wisconsin short-track driver. 

“Being a Wisconsin guy, Dick Trickle is obviously ‘The Man’ around these parts,” Sauter said of Trickle, who died in 2013.

“It is extra special, too, because Vick Getzloff (Trickle’s old crew chief) does my tires and obviously he raced with Trickle for over a decade as his right-hand man.

“It is kind of cool to win this for Vick. I felt that way when I got here this morning, man it would be so cool to win this for Vick.”

He did just that.

In a unique race that is broken down into three, 33-lap segments, drivers are awarded points based on their finish. After three segments the scores are compiled with the lowest total winning.

Sauter won the opening segment, earning a single point. He was seventh in the second, and second in the third, leaving him with 10 total points.

Casey Johnson of Edgerton, Wis., was second with 15 points, based on finishes of seventh, fifth and third. Ty Majeski, the second-segment winner, wound up third with 16 points (sixth, first and ninth).

Sauter, in his typical driving style, was aggressive in each segment despite driving a car that he will use in Sunday’s Oktoberfest 200, the highlight of the four-day Oktoberfest Races.

“I only race one way, and that is hard as I can. You got to make the stuff handle good enough to be able to do that — at least that is what we try to do,” Sauter said.

“Obviously, this is all about positioning right? And advancing your spot. You don’t have a choice but to drive hard. Sunday’s deal is a little different, you can kind of get into cruise mode a little bit there. This is all about getting where you are going in a hurry.”

Sauter, the defending Camping World Truck Series champion who is the hunt for a another title, started the opening segment in the 12th position of a 23-car field loaded with talent. He pushed his No. 5 car hard, picking off car after car until he was in fourth place by Lap 9 of the 33-lap segment.

Sauter and Jacob Goede of Carver, Minn., engaged in an intense battle for third place before Sauter swiped it on Lap 11. His push to the front was far from over, as he stole second from veteran Dan Fredrickson of Lakeville, Minn., on the backstretch of Lap 20.

The only driver between himself and the checkered flag was Austin Nason, a 22-year-old from Roscoe, Ill.

Sauter was side-by-side with Nason on Lap 26, then took over the low racing groove entering Turn 1, then grabbed the lead on Lap 27.

It was a hard-earned win in the opening segment, but Sauter made it clear he wasn’t holding anything back.

“We’ve got good speed and I was pushing it pretty hard,” Sauter said. “To me, you’re here to race, right? Give it all you’ve got.”

Sauter started 13th in the second segment and moved up to seventh in a race Majeski dominated. 

Majeski, who won La Crosse Late Models and Super Late Model Futures Thursday night, started in the eighth position in the 17-car second segment, and moved into third place by Lap 13, then took second away from Corey Jankowski on Lap 19. His relentless pursuit didn’t end there, as he took the lead from Paul Shafer Jr. of Portage, Ind., on Lap 26 and cruised to the segment victory.

“We just had a miscommunication on qualifying, which put us behind the 8 ball a little bit,” Majeski said of his positioning in the opening segment. “We made some adjustments and made it where it needed to be.”

Sauter changed that thought in the third segment, as he moved into fifth place by Lap 15, fourth by Lap 17, third by Lap 21, then into second by Lap 29 when he got by Bangor’s Skylar Holzhausen.

He would not catch third segment winner Jason Weinkauf, but it wouldn’t matter. A driver who has won just about everything else at Oktoberfest, had earned his first Dick Trickle 99 trophy.

“It is fun. We work really hard at this. Yes, it is a hobby but I also want to be competitive at it,” Sauter said. “It is fun to come here and see all of your old friends and people who you raced against, but it is another thing as you want to be competitive and do your best.”