JOHNNY SAUTER No. 21 Allegiant Chevrolet Silverado
Gateway Recap Johnny Sauter and the No. 21 Allegiant team rallied from an eventful final practice to claim their sixth top-three finish of the season at Gateway Motorsports Park on Saturday night. In the opening minutes of final practice, Sauter made contact with the No. 98 and got into the wall. Though the Allegiant Chevrolet suffered heavy damage, the team and driver decided to repair the truck before the afternoon’s qualifying session, in which they advanced to the final round to earn a ninth-place starting spot.
Sauter reported early on in the event that he had no grip and maintained his position within the top-10 until the end of the first stage when he visited pit road for right-side tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. The No. 21 restarted from the fourth position but once again, the Necedah, Wis., native relayed to crew chief Joe Shear, Jr., that he was still battling no grip as the second stage came to an end. A slow four-tire pit stop led to Sauter restarting outside of the top-10 for the final 90-lap stage.
Just past the halfway mark, Sauter reentered the top-10 but continued to struggle with handling. The race stayed green forcing Shear, Jr., to use pit strategy to maintain track position. When the No. 21 came to pit road on lap 133, the team provided their driver with right-side tires and fuel, opting for no adjustments as the handling of the Allegiant Chevrolet had greatly improved over the long green-flag run. The final caution of the night occurred with just 11 laps remaining. Sauter took the green from the sixth position and drove to third in the final two laps to earn his sixth top-five finish of the year.
Quote “Overall this was a tough day for our Allegiant team, but the guys stuck with me and we were able to get a decent finish out of it. I’d like to think that if we had been able to practice during the final session things would have been a little different, maybe we would have been going for another win here at the end, but I’m proud of the work Joe (Shear, Jr., crew chief) and the team did to repair the truck and have something that could run in the top-five when it was all said and done.”
Additional Info – Sauter holds a 38-point lead over Christopher Bell in the driver and owner championship point standings, with one win and nine playoff points. – The third-place result is Sauter’s sixth top-five finish in the same number of starts at Gateway Motorsports Park.
JUSTIN HALEY No. 24 Kingman Chevrolet Silverado
Gateway Recap Justin Haley, driver of the Kingman Chevrolet, finished both of Saturday’s practice sessions at Gateway Motorsports Park in the fourth position. In just his second start at the 1.25-mile track, Haley qualified in the eighth position for the 160-lap event.
Early in the event, the 18-year-old reported to crew chief Kevin Bellicourt that the No. 24 was turning good everywhere but he could use a little more lateral stability. At the end of the first stage, Haley pitted for two tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment, advancing into the sixth position for the start of stage two. Just 10 laps into the second stage, the driver told the team he was tight on entry as he began to fall outside the top-10. He dropped back to the 14th position before the yellow flag was shown at the conclusion of the second stage. He visited the Kingman Chevrolet team for four tires, fuel and adjustments to help with the entry.
A long green flag run during the final stage allowed the No. 24 team to use pit strategy to gain track position on the final stop. Haley brought his Chevrolet Silverado to pit road under green for fuel only after reporting that he was just a little tight in the center of the turn. A caution with 11 laps remaining allowed Haley to pit for four tires and restart in the 13th position. He was able to advance into the top-10 in the closing laps for his third consecutive top-10 finish.
Quote “The No. 24 team did a great job working through a tough night. We struggled with our handling all night but Kevin (Bellicourt, crew chief) made a great call at the end to pit for tires and we were able to come out of it with another top-10. I’m really proud of the progress this team has made and feel good about what we’re bringing to the track in these next few weeks.”
Additional Info – Haley advanced two positions in the driver point standings and is now 14th. – The 10th-place finish at Gateway Motorsports Park is his fourth top-10 of the season.
KAZ GRALA No. 33 Kiklos Chevrolet Silverado
Gateway Recap After finishing Saturday morning’s practice sessions at Gateway Motorsports Park 14th-fastest in the first session and sixth-fastest in the second session, Kaz went on to qualify 10th for the Drivin’ For Linemen 200. Fighting to maintain track position as soon as the 160-lap race began, Kaz settled into the top 10 before ultimately slipping to 11th at the stage one break. The rookie reported that throughout the entire run he was fighting a “four tight” and was struggling to turn his No. 33 Kiklos Chevrolet Silverado like he needed to.
Coming to pit road for four tires, fuel and major adjustments to free him up under the break, the GMS Racing crew realized that Kaz had a right rear tire that was in the process of going flat, aiding in the handling issues Kaz had been experiencing. Unfortunately the adjustments made under the caution were then a step too far, causing Kaz to fight a loose Chevy throughout stage two, resulting in a 12th-place finish after 70 laps.
Kaz came to pit road under the caution for four tires and fuel but reported that as the sun was going down, his handling seemed to be getting better and to leave the Kiklos Chevy alone on the pit stop. However, as the race continued, the No. 33 swung back to the tight side impeding Kaz’s progress. Crew Chief Jerry Baxter made the call to bring the Boston-native down pit road, under green, on lap 130 for two right-side tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment to try to help with the handling issues. As pit stops cycled through, Kaz found himself battling to get back inside the top-10. As he put the pressure on the 10th-place driver, the caution flag was displayed on lap 149 for a stalled truck on pit road. With the final restart coming with eight laps to go, Kaz did his best to try make up some ground but his handling woes were still too much to overcome, relinquishing him to a 13th-place finish.
Quote “This definitely isn’t the night we wanted at Gateway but there was nothing else that we could do. Jerry (Baxter, crew chief) and the guys worked hard to get the Kiklos Chevy handling right all day, but nothing seemed to help. Hopefully we can rebound next weekend in Iowa. That’s a track that I have a ton of laps at.”
Additional Info – After the eighth race of the season, Kaz is currently eighth in the NCWTS point standings, but has one win and five bonus points towards the playoffs.