CONCORD, N.C. – Johnny Sauter was the last driver to beat Kyle Busch “heads-up” in a NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race, winning last year’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
With Busch now on a five-race Truck Series winning streak, Sauter would like nothing more than to replicate his performance from a year ago during Friday night’s Truck Series return to CMS.
Busch has reigned undefeated during each of the last five Truck Series races that he’s entered, a run that sits one race shy of tying his own record of six-straight starts with a win at NASCAR’s third highest level.
That’s something Sauter would like to keep from happening, and he’s optimistic that his No. 13 Tenda Heal Ford F-150 will have the speed to go toe-to-toe with Busch’s No. 51 Toyota Tundra come race time.
“I’d like to think that we can do it again,” Sauter told SPEED SPORT on Friday. “We’ve got some work to do; there’s no doubt about it, but I think we’ll have a shot. This race track is just tighter than what I remember it being. It’s tighter through the center and on the exit with the handling that I have.
“Right now he looks pretty good, but you can never count us out,” he added. “We’ll lean on our teammates as much as we can and with some educated guesses, I feel like we’ll race well tonight.”
Though some drivers say that having someone like Busch – who has won a record 54 Truck Series races in his career – in the field pushes them to up their game, Sauter subscribes to the theory that he shouldn’t have to change his racing style just because the competition is a little stiffer than normal.
“I feel like I’m the kind of guy who can’t be pushed any more, no matter what the circumstance is,” Sauter noted. “I’m giving it all I’ve got every time I’m on the race track. It’s about pride, self-pride. Just because some big name shows up doesn’t mean I try any harder than I would normally.
“Moving forward, we’ll get questions the next few races about the Triple Truck Challenge and the bonus money that’s being put up, and I’m not planning on doing anything differently than I always have.”
After noting that he might have moved Busch to win at Atlanta Motor Speedway back in February had he been close enough to do so, Sauter isn’t denying the possibility of similar aggression showing its face at Charlotte if the right circumstances presented themselves.
“If there’s an opportunity to win and we have to get aggressive, of course I’m going to go for it,” Sauter said. “Having said that, you have to be smart about what you do. You can’t just go out and wreck people, because that will come back to haunt you, especially with the way the playoff system is.
“You just have to race hard, and if you rub fenders with someone and tear stuff up, that’s just racing.”
As for Busch, specifically, Sauter has won against him before and knows that he can do so again.
“He’s beatable,” Sauter said with a grin. “He’s human.”