Racing for the Jim Sauter family in Necedah, Wis., has always been a family affair.
As far as anyone has been able to determine, Jim Sauter just might have the largest racing family in the country.
At least no one ever has disputed that fact.
Jim Sauter, now 66, started the racing trend for his family, running a few NASCAR Grand National races (now Sprint Cup Series). He came to NASCAR about the same time that Dave Marcis showed up from Wisconsin and was a close friend of Dick Trickle, another Wisconsin driver.
“He’s pretty much retired now,” says Johnny Sauter, one of his four sons.
Sauter was one of the independent drivers in NASCAR and never had heavy financial backing.
For the longest of time in the ’80s and ’90s, Sauter teamed with Marcis to conduct just about every Goodyear tire test there was in NASCAR for the Grand National stock cars. It was Sauter’s method to help pay for his racing expenses.
Sauter’s family includes sons Jay, now 41, living in Wisconsin and racing go-karts; Tim, 44, racing some late-model cars in Wisconsin; Johnny; and Jim, Jr., two years younger than Johnny, and running some races in Wisconsin.
Then there’s sisters Terione, Danielle, Terese, Jennifer, Angela, Andrea and Gabrielle.
“None of them are involved in racing,” says Johnny. “They were all smarter than their four brothers and knew not to get involved in racing.”
A few years ago at The Milwaukee Mile, track officials paid tribute to the Sauter family and arranged for Sauter and his sons to compete in the same NASCAR Busch Series (now Nationwide Series) race.
“That was pretty special for all of us,” says Johnny. “That’s something I’ll never forget.”
Johnny got to run a few Sprint Cup races a couple of years ago for Gene Haas Racing before Tony Stewart bought into the team and brought in Ryan Newman, letting Johnny go.
Johnny had trouble finding a Sprint Cup ride or even a Nationwide Series opening.
Finally, Johnny took a ride in the Camping World Truck Series, driving the No. 13 Chevrolet Silverado owned by Mike Curb and Duke Thorsen.
He won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and this past season he was the top Raybestos Brakes rookie in 14 of the 25 truck races
For Johnny’s efforts he was the Raybestos Brakes Rookie of the Year in the Truck series, finishing 57 points ahead of Taylor Malsam, 270-213.
Winning the rookie title at the Raybestos luncheon Nov. 24 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway’s Speedway Club, along with Joey Logano (Sprint Cup), Justin Allgaier (Nationwide Series) and Lucas Ransone (USARacing), is something no one else in the Sauter family ever has done.
“Winning that race at Las Vegas did me a lot of good and restored a lot of my self-confidence,” says Johnny. “After driving my guts out for Haas and not coming up with a Cup ride, I was pretty down on myself. I really was at loose ends, not knowing what to do.
“James Finch kept me alive as long as he could, giving me a couple of rides in his No. 1 car.
“Then this deal came together with Thorsen and Curb. I jumped at it.
“It’s the best thing that’s happened for me. I hope to be able to do this for a long time and show some people how wrong they were about Johnny Sauter. I think I come from pretty good stock.
“It’s a thrill to win this rookie title when you look at all the rookie names in the past.
“We finally got it done here in the truck series. It was a pretty good year and I’m looking forward to next year.
“Anytime you can win an award like this, it’s an honor.”
And Johnny Sauter has a family to back him on that, if you have any doubts.