[media-credit name=”Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images North America” align=”alignright” width=”100″][/media-credit]Although not as close as Carl Edwards’ loss of the Cup championship in a tie breaker, Camping World Truck Series driver Johnny Sauter had an eerily similar experience. The driver of the No. 13 ThorSport Toyota Tundra came up short by just six points in his bid to win the Truck title last season.
Yet Johnny Sauter’s runner-up status has served as nothing short of a motivator, enhancing his desire even more to run all out for that most coveted honor in the upcoming 2012 season.
“I guess the competitor in you will look back on last season as a really good year, winning a couple of races, leading close to 500 laps, getting a couple of poles,” Sauter said. “But ultimately finishing in second place by six points is tough.”
“Do I feel like Carl Edwards?” Sauter continued. “Look, if you’re second in points it’s great, as long as it’s by fifty points or so.”
“When it’s one point like with Carl, it’s really tough,” Sauter said. “But six points is also tough to swallow.”
“You go through the whole season and put your best effort out there,” Sauter continued. “And if you come up six points short, you come up six points short.”
“I’m just thankful that I have the opportunity to go try it again.”
Sauter is definitely keeping himself focused on what is really important, including not dwelling on the the past. Plus, Sauter is just plain practical in his approach to racing.
“I’ve spent a lot of times focusing on the positives,” Sauter said. “There are instances where I could have done things better but I’ve learned from my mistakes.”
“So, hopefully we can pick up where we left off and make a run of it in 2012.”
“It’s easy for me,” Sauter said. “I’ve got kids and they like to eat. So, I don’t have an option but to dig hard and race hard week in and week out.”
“I feel like I’m with the team and the organization where it’s not just about the driver,” Sauter continued. “The team can carry me and it’s a mutual relationship that works really well.”
“I have all the faith in the world in my crew chief and in my guys,” Sauter said. “So, I see us picking off where we left off and contending for the championship and winning races.”
“At the end of the day, it’s something that you want to do, so you do it.”
Sauter credits his confidence in going into the 2012 season with his consistency with his team and crew chief. But he acknowledged that his team is indeed facing a challenge this season in the move from a Chevrolet race truck to a Toyota.
“It’s actually a perfect time to switch manufacturers in the off season when you have a bit of down time and when you’re re-bodying your trucks anyway,” Sauter said. “We were essentially switched over to a Toyota a week or two after Homestead.”
“And we were in the wind tunnel and already learning what we needed to do,” Sauter continued. “We were pleasantly surprised that we were good right out of the gate.”
Sauter is also pleased that his long-time friend and teammate Matt Crafton will be at his side at the track. Additionally, he is looking forward to working with 18 year old Dakoda Armstrong, who will be running for Rookie of the Year honors for ThorSport Racing.
“I’ve always had a great relationship with Crafton,” Sauter said. “Dakoda is a really good kid. He’s one of those guys that has proved himself already and he seems to be really open to learning.”
“I see it working well, really well,” Sauter continued. “You throw Kimmel in there with the ARCA team and that’s even better.”
“We have a lot of changes but a lot of good things working this season and I couldn’t be more pleased with my fellow drivers, crew chiefs and team members. The whole deal is pretty solid.”
While much in Sauter’s racing life is staying the same, including long-time sponsor Curb Records, the driver is also looking forward to welcoming new sponsor, Hot Honeys Honey-Roasted Chipotle-flavored peanuts, to the fold.
“Well the Hot Honey Chipotle Peanuts sponsorship is good,” Sauter said. “Let’s face it, this is a sport that’s sponsor driven and takes a lot of money for us to do what we do.”
“A new relationship with The Peanut Roaster Company is great and I look forward to working with them this upcoming season,” Sauter continued. “It’s fun to see some fresh paint schemes in the garage.”
“They are very excited to be in the sport and hopefully we can do a good job in representing them.”
In addition to preparing for his championship run in the upcoming season, Sauter has been busy at home with his family, as well as with his ‘other’ hobby.
“My hobby is racing,” Sauter said. “I’ve got a late model car that I spend most of my time working on when I have any free time.”
“I went and raced a couple weeks ago in Georgia,” Sauter continued. “I finished dead last due to mechanical issues.”
“But it was fun,” Sauter said. “That’s what I do. Anytime I get an opportunity to race, that’s what I do other than spend time with my family.”
Yet even with his ‘other’ racing hobby to keep him occupied, Sauter admitted to being not only surprised at how fast the off season has gone, but also at how ready he is to get back to the Truck Series track. He is especially excited realizing that his date with Daytona is right around the corner.
“It’s an exciting feeling for me,” Sauter said. “Everybody that is fortunate to get to drive in one of the top three divisions in NASCAR and make their living doing it, that’s exciting in and of itself.”
“But to pull into Daytona, with the history of that race track and knowing that at a restrictor plate race that anyone can win that race, it’s an exciting feeling.”
“But you kind of have to manage your expectations,” Sauter continued. “I’ve been down there and taken out before I’ve even completed a full lap of the race.”
“So, you take the good with the bad. Daytona is one of those places that can grab you but it’s still an exciting feeling.”
“My program is solid,” Sauter said. “I love having the opportunity to race with the same group of guys.”
“Being so close to winning the championship, I feel so fortunate to race another year and ultimately, hopefully, to be the champion.”