ASA Title On The Line
September 28, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
The rookie driver, who has won an unprecedented nine races so far this season, could have wrapped up the championship last weekend at Indiana's Winchester Speedway. Instead the new champ will be decided Saturday night at Indianapolis Raceway Park in the final race of the ASA season.
Simply put, Gary St. Amant is making a race of things. Sure he still sits 108 points behind Sauter, but he mathematically has a chance to overtake the young driver and claim a second straight championship.
Winning at IRP will not come easy for either Sauter or St. Amant. More than 50 cars have been entered for the event, including 1999 ASA champ Tim Sauter, Johnny's older brother.
Tim Sauter had six career ASA wins before leaving to pursue opportunities in the NASCAR Busch Series. Driving a car that Johnny used last weekend at Winchester, Tim plans to help his brother however he can.
“It should be interesting,” Tim Sauter said. “I'm just going to be there in case these guys need help. I think it'll help John be more comfortable so that he doesn't have to worry about some things (on the race track). You know, certain situations come up and we may have to deal with them.
"We just want to make sure Johnny is safe and we've done everything we can as a team to win the championship."
The breakdown of St Amant’s chances to catch Sauter is a bit complicated. The winner of an ASA event gets 175 points. Bonus points are given for the top-five qualifiers (first receives five, second four and so on). Each driver who leads at least one lap of competition receives five points as does the driver who leads the most laps. Also, 15 appearance points are granted to each driver who meets certain requirements set forth by the ASA.
So, if Sauter finishes 22nd or higher (with no bonus points) then St. Amant cannot win the title. But if Sauter finishes lower than 22nd, and St. Amant does well, anything is possible.
Even though he has nine wins this season, Sauter has seen his share of problems. After winning the pole and finishing fourth in the first race of the season, the Wisconsin native had two dismal performances. St Amant meanwhile has slowly closed in on the rookie using consistent top-five finishes to stay in the hunt. St. Amant’s lowest finish this season is 23rd.
And if Tim Sauter has anything to say about it, his little brother will have no trouble come Saturday night.
“Our first and utmost goal is to make sure Johnny wins this championship,” Tim said. “I knew he had the potential and Alec (Pinnsoneault) knew it, too. A lot of people were doubters. I know when I announced it on the stage at the ASA banquet that a lot of people just blew it off and scoffed and said, 'Oh big deal!' So, in a way, this is sweet for John, Alec and me. And without all the people that we have here it wouldn't be possible."
Qualifying for the tirerack.com 200 begins at 6 p.m. (ET) Friday. The race will take the green flag at 8 p.m. (ET) Saturday night and will be broadcast live on TNN.