Sauter’s Showcases Short-Track Prowess with Runner-Up at Iowa
Johnny Sauter excelled Friday night at Iowa Speedway, winning Stage 2, finishing second, and collecting more points than any driver in the field.
This performance attested to his short track racing prowess that has defined his season through the first nine races. He hasn’t finished worse than third at the smaller venues on the schedule, including runner-up results at Martinsville and now Iowa.
He has also placed better than Christopher Bell in each of his runner-up performances.
With Sauter and Bell leading the way in the driver’s standings in first and second respectively, the championship battle could come down between the two competitors this fall.
While Sauter has outperformed Bell at the smaller tracks, the driver of the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota has been masterful at the larger venues.
Both of his victories this season came at 1.5-mile facilities, Atlanta and Texas. Texas is also one of the three mile-and-a-half’s in the playoffs, and its position in the second round means a victory there would advance a title contender to the Championship 4.
Sauter will also benefit from having three smaller tracks in the post-season with New Hampshire, Martinsville, and Phoenix. Last fall, he won at Martinsville and placed second at Phoenix en route to his first career championship.
Talladega will be the one wild card factor in the playoffs as its unpredictability and position as an elimination race will make survival critical to post-season success.
While the GMS Racing drivers’ experience in the series may lend the upper hand in some playoff events, the championship race is hosted at a track that suits Bell, Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Sauter did beat Bell there last November to capture the title, but Kyle Busch Motorsports has shown tremendous improvement at 1.5-mile tracks this season and has won every intermediate race so far in 2017.
If both drivers continue to show the way in the series, this fall’s championship battle will pit experience against youth and short-track success at odds with mile-and-a-half prowess.
Whichever competitor and team can make up ground at the other’s stronghold over the course of the summer will likely earn an advantage that could decide the title race.
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