STATESVILLE, N.C. — GMS Racing announced Friday that 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter will return to the team alongside crew chief Joe Shear Jr. next year to defend his series title.
Sauter used a third-place finish in the season-finale Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway last month to secure his first championship in one of NASCAR’s top three series, racking up three wins, 12 top-fives and 19 top-10s along the way.
The veteran driver from Wisconsin moved to GMS from ThorSport Racing prior to the start of the 2016 season, a move many questioned but Sauter had complete faith in.
That faith was rewarded by a victory in the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona Int’l Speedway, but Sauter didn’t catch fire until GMS made a change atop the pit box, swapping Marcus Richmond for Shear following the Charlotte Motor Speedway race in May.
After reuniting with Shear in June, scoring the pole and finishing third at Texas Motor Speedway, the duo was unstoppable from that point on.
Ultimately, Shear guided Sauter to 16 top-10s in the season’s final 17 races. That run of success included top-10s in all seven NCWTS Chase races, including four top-five finishes in the final four races and victories at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Texas.
“A lot of people asked if I really thought the move to GMS [Racing] would result in a championship. After talking with Mike Beam and Maury [Gallagher], I truly believed in their goals for the team and felt like it was the right move if I wanted to win a title,” said Sauter in a team release. “The progress this team made throughout the season was incredible. It’s a relief to finally be able to say I’m a champion, but there’s also that feeling that it’s supposed to be that way. The reason we compete every weekend is to be the best, so anything less would be a disappointment.”
The duo’s 2017 run will mark a continuation of the Sauter-Shear legacy, a history that started in the Midwest with their fathers competing against each other.
“I’m excited to do this again, especially with Joe,” Sauter added. “I don’t think we would have won a championship without him last year. We’re going to start where we left off, make up for those four races I didn’t finish in the top 10, and win that owner’s championship for Maury.”
Sauter will look to defend his win in the Daytona season-opener on Feb. 24, 2017, making his 200th career Truck Series start one week later at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
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