No. 21 Allegiant Chevrolet Silverado
Johnny Sauter’s Eldora Speedway experience started off rocky when a spin in final practice and contact left the No. 21 Allegiant team repairing their Chevrolet Silverado up until the start of Wednesday’s qualifying session. Despite the damage, Sauter was happy with the handling but only turned the 14th-fastest qualifying time, placing him in the third starting spot for the fourth qualifying race. The Necedah, Wis., native finished third, advancing to the main race and lining up 14th for the fifth running of the Eldora Dirt Derby.
After gaining a few spots on the initial start, Sauter reported to the team that he was running “way hot,” and like many of his competitors, couldn’t see anything out of the windshield. On lap 20, he was caught up in an incident that sent several trucks spinning, causing minimal right side damage. He visited the Allegiant team on pit road to clear the grille and clear the windshield and returned to the field in the 17th position. Caution occurred once again just five laps later, keeping Sauter from advancing past the 16th position as stage one ended under yellow.
Pitting for tires and fuel, Sauter relayed that he was happy with the feel of his Silverado and felt confident he’d be able to pass to get up front. Under the extended caution, crew chief Joe Shear, Jr., told his driver he had a small hole in the radiator. The team ultimately decided to make a radiator change as the race returned to green, placing the veteran driver seven laps down.
Sauter continued, happy with the handling of the Allegiant machine, and stayed out of any addition trouble to finish in the 23rd position, seven laps down.
“I’m not a dirt racer in any sense of the word, so the best I could hope for was to survive and get a decent finish, but unfortunately it just wasn’t meant to be one of those races for us. The Allegiant team did an amazing job repairing the truck after the wreck in practice and I thought, with the spin early on in the race, that we’d still be okay. The guys did a great job switching out the radiator as fast as they did, just wish I could have had a shot at a good finish there at the end. It was probably the most comfortable I’ve ever felt going into Eldora, and Joe (Shear, Jr., crew chief) and the team showed we’re making progress everywhere, so I’ve got nothing to hang my head about.”
– Despite finishing outside the top 10 for the second time this year, Sauter remains the driver championship point standing leader by 7 points over Christopher Bell.
No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet
Justin Haley and the No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles team spent both of Tuesday night’s practice sessions working to overcome an extremely tight handling issue. By the end of the final practice, the 18-year old driver was happy with the progress the team had made, only needing to make a few changes to get the No. 24 ready for qualifying. Haley turned the 18th-fastest qualifying lap in the Wednesday afternoon session, after being way too loose on his first lap. He started fourth in the third heat race and finished third advancing to the main race where he started 13th.
The Winamac, Ind., native struggled to make the bottom work as the race went green for the first 40-lap stage, dropping back to 18th before the first caution of the night occurred on lap 6. He restarted in the 17th position and made his way up to 9th before the caution occurred again on lap 20. He visited the Fraternal Order of Eagles team on pit road for a windshield tear-off and to clean the grille. The field returned to green with Haley advancing to the eighth position, but caution occurred once again forcing the first stage to end under yellow.
Haley stayed on track in the No. 24, starting stage two from the fifth position. He maintained position within the top 10, reporting to the team that he was comfortable but tight on the bottom. He completed stage two in the 10th position before pitting the Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet Silverado for four tires, fuel and a tear-off.
Haley started the final stage of the race in the 13th position, quickly making his way back into the top 10. Remaining patient as the cautions continued to occur, he worked his way as high as fourth before contact from the No. 98 forced him to drop back to the ninth position. With less than 10 laps remaining, Haley advanced to seventh, but ultimately crossed the line in the eighth position for his sixth consecutive top-10 finish of the season.
“I’m really proud of the work the Fraternal Order of Eagles team did these last few days. We had what was probably a top-three truck, but every time we made a little ground there was someone there moving us out of the way. But it was a good night for the No. 24 team and it’s clear we’re getting closer to a win. We’ll keep up the momentum and head into Pocono to take another shot at getting it done.”
– With an eighth-place finish at Eldora, Haley’s top-10 streak has now reached six consecutive races. He has seven total top-10s in nine starts this season.
– Haley advanced to 12th in the driver championship point standings.
No. 33 15-40 Connection Chevrolet Silverado
With only minor dirt experience on his racing resume, Kaz headed to Eldora Speedway for the first time in his NCWTS career, optimistic about what the week would hold. Using both practice sessions to get acclimated to the half-mile clay oval, the 18-year-old driver finished the first session 11th-fastest and final practice session ninth in his No. 33 15-40 Connection Chevrolet Silverado.
With such a unique race, qualifying for the Eldora Dirt Derby began with single-truck runs, where Kaz was third-fastest of the NCWTS field. His time placed him on the pole for the third heat race, where Kaz led all 10 laps and collected the win, lining him up third for the main event.
Still trying to get used to running on dirt, Kaz lost some ground at the start of the 150-lap event, but settled into eighth-place until the competition caution on lap 20. Coming down pit road under caution to the attention of his 15-40 Connection team, Kaz asked for his windshield and grille to be cleaned of mud. Restarting eighth with only a handful of laps remaining in stage one, Kaz was trying to make up ground when the No. 4 spun in front of him, leaving Kaz nowhere to go. Sustaining significant damage to his No. 33 Chevrolet, Kaz’s night ended on lap 35, relegating him to a 31st-place finish.
“It was just wrong place at the wrong time there. I was already committed on the throttle to the lane I was in and just didn’t have enough time to go high or low. I just really hate it for my GMS Racing guys. We had a fast 15-40 Connection Chevy tonight, and I thought we were going to have a good night even though I don’t have much experience on dirt. I just had nowhere to go.”
– After the 11th race of the season, Kaz is currently 11th in the NCWTS point standings, but has one win and five bonus points towards the playoffs.