NASCAR officials announced Tuesday that Johnny Sauter has been suspended for one race due to his actions at Iowa Speedway under caution and cannot compete in this weekend’s upcoming Truck Series race at Gateway.
On Lap 137 during Sunday’s M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway, Sauter was wrecked off Turn 4. Replays showed that it was Austin Hill who wrecked Sauter after they had been battling hard with each other laps prior, which led up to the incident.
After Sauter was wrecked, he chased after Hill and intentionally wrecked him, sending Hill up the track. After Sauter’s actions, he was parked for the rest of the day by NASCAR and finished 27th, while Hill wound up in the 12th position. Apparently, this incident started at the previous race Texas Motor Speedway, a week before.
However, despite the news, Sauter will still remain playoff eligible from his win at Dover and currently sits eighth in the points standings, the last spot to be qualified for the playoffs.
Sauter spoke with Fox Sports 1 reporter Alan Cavanna after the race in a short interview and gave his side of the story.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out, you know?,” Sauter said to Alan Cavanna in his interview. “You know, sometimes you have contact and it’s racing.”
Sauter was also asked if he had spoken to Hill.
“No, what’s there to say?” Sauter added. “I’d love too, yeah it would be great, but it’s going to be hard to get to him.”
Hill also commented about the incident. .
“It’s hard racing with that (Johnny Sauter) guy,” Hill said to Alan Cavanna. “We were racing hard, getting in to Turn 1, he got in to me a little bit, I kind of returned the favor. I don’t race like that, so if you’re going to race me like that and take me out, I guess he was mad from Texas last week, I don’t know. I’m not going to put up with it, I mean you seen that today (Sunday). I try to race everyone clean, but when they race you like that, I don’t put up with it.”
When the suspension news was announced Tuesday afternoon, NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller explained NASCAR’s decision.
“We look back at the history of everything we’ve done and try to react with the precedents that we’ve set and then obviously tailoring those to the situation that we have at hand,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “In this case, we felt like his actions certainly warranted being sat down for an event, but it felt a little too harsh to take him straight out of the championship, so we think we landed on what we feel is fair and a deterrent.”
“We tend to look at incidents under caution as more of a retaliatory thing,” Miller said. “Obviously, him driving half a track with a smoking truck and winding through a few cars to get to the 16 and then running over him, then bouncing off the wall and running into his door, it was pretty aggressive. It was definitely not anything that could in any way, shape or form be defended as a racing incident.”
While Sauter will sit out this weekend, NASCAR said there will be more discussions with Hill and NASCAR will continue to monitor the two drivers for the rest of the season.
“We did talk about that,” Miller said, “and while we haven’t typically reacted in the form of a penalty to those things, there will certainly be further discussions with the driver of the 16 and he will definitely be placed under a little bit more of a microscope as far as us watching his actions on the race track.”
“Those conversations will take place again before they are placed on the race track again together,” Miller said, “and there will be a pretty good understanding that we don’t want to see any more contact or aggressive behavior out of either one of them — toward each other or other competitors.”
This is the first time a Truck Series driver has been suspended from competition since 2011.