SLINGER, Wis. – Johnny Sauter, the 2016 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion, revealed Tuesday that he plans to participate in the 40th annual Slinger Nationals at Slinger Super Speedway in July.
“I have it on the calendar for this year,” the Necedah native said in a phone interview Tuesday. “The goal is to run better and not suck.”
Sauter’s commitment comes on the heels of the announcement made by Matt Kenseth, a fellow Wisconsin native, 2003 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner, that he plans to race in this year’s event, which is scheduled for July 9.
Ty Majeski is the defending race champion.
In 2015, Sauter made his competitive debut at the Slinger Nationals. He didn’t fare well, dropping out with a mechanical failure after a control arm failed. He finished 20th in the 24-car field. He returned in 2018 and did slightly better, running in the top 10 with about 20 laps to go before cutting a tire. But it was nowhere near where he wanted to be.
“Both times, quite frankly, I ran not up to par,” Sauter said. “I remember leaving the Nationals last year (expletive) off because I spent all day Monday at the race track practicing. I tried every spring and shock combination in my pit box and never got any better.”
Sauter also said he has a lot of pride to do well with his short-track racing. Because he hasn’t fared well in his two attempts at Slinger Nationals, those failures serve as motivation.
“It’s unlike any race track we have in the state (of Wisconsin),” Sauter said. “To me, the setup is different. The things that I’ve applied at other tracks to Slinger have not worked. It’s got a special place because I know how demanding that track is and, quite frankly, how good your stuff has to be.”
So far this year after returning to ThorSport Racing in the Truck Series, he is sixth in the series standings with one top-five finish and two top-10 finishes in three races. After winning a career-high six races in 2018, Sauter is still in search of his first victory of the season.
Since making his NASCAR debut in 2001 in the Xfinity Series, Sauter has made 539 career starts across NASCAR’s top three series. He has 23 wins in the Truck Series and three wins in the Xfinity Series.
Sauter usually makes a handful of late model starts each year in the Midwest. Last year he earned an ARCA Midwest Tour victory at Dells Raceway Park in Wisconsin Dells, Wis. He also won the Dick Trickle Memorial 99 at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway during Oktoberfest Weekend last year.
Editor’s Note: A historical look at the Slinger Nationals will appear in the June issue of SPEED SPORT Magazine.