The green flag will drop on the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season in 16 days when the trucks hit the track for the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, February 21st. Motorsports 101's writers make their picks on who they think will win the championship come November after the 22 races schedule is complete.
Johnny Sauter – By Clayton Caldwell
It’s been a crazy off season for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and after a surprising announcement that Jeb Burton would not return to Turner Scott Motorsports, the candidates to win the championship in the series have become few and far between.
While there still may be some announcements to come, like where five-time Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr will be driving in 2014, right now I would have to go with the organization who won the championship last year in ThorSport Racing. However, this time I am picking Johnny Sauter.
Sauter is one of the better drivers in the Camping World Truck Series and has a ton of experience in NASCAR. After a Cup career in which Sauter just could never latch on with a major team, Sauter has found a home in the Camping World Truck Series driving the No. 98 Toyota for ThorSport Racing which is one of the fastest growing teams in the Truck Series.
Sauter has run the last five seasons for the team and has won nine races with his best finish in the points coming in 2011 when he finished runner-up. In 2013 Sauter and his No. 98 team got off to an awesome start. However, after a stiff penalty following the race at Kansas, the team collapsed and crew chief Joe Shear Jr left the organization to pursue other opportunities.
Sauter’s new crew chief for the No. 98 Toyota is Gene Wachtel and with that now Sauter should have stability at the crew chief position, which I believe will help the team throughout the season.
It would be Sauter’s first championship in a major series. Sauter comes from a racing family and all his hard work would pay off with his first championship.
The Camping World Truck Series provides great races most of the time they hit the track during the season and even though the lineup this season may lack big names that fact should not change. With only 16 days left until the season starts there are 12 confirmed full time efforts to choose from for the championship.
Looking into it there looks to be five drivers that are in a position heading into the season to be legitimate title contenders. They are Timothy Peters with Red Horse Racing, Ryan Blaney with Brad Keselowski Racing, Darrell Wallace Jr with Kyle Busch Motorsports, and the ThorSport Racing duo of Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter.
It would not surprise me if any of those drivers were crowned champion at the end of the season but I'll go with Timothy Peters. He has had stability in the Truck Series and with his Red Horse Racing team. He has been driving the No. 17 Toyota for them for the past five full seasons and during that time has accumulated seven wins. The team came close in 2012 to winning the championship when they finished second to James Buescher.
That season Peters had two wins, 10 top fives, 16 top tens and two poles in the 22 races. His average finish was 8.3. The team did not have a very good 2013 season and even so won two races at Iowa and Las Vegas. Peters had those two wins, four top fives, and 11 top tens in the 22 races. His average finish dropped to 13.3.
The 33-year-old Peters and the No. 17 Red Horse Racing team will be determined to perform better in 2014 and are very capable of putting together a championship campaign.
A dark horse could be Peters' new teammate Brian Ickler, who will be driving the No. 7 truck for the team. Ben Kennedy will be with a strong team in the Turner Scott Motorsports No. 31 truck but with it being his rookie year will find his struggles. Taylor Malsam is expect to be in another Turner Scott Motorsports truck but he has not been officially announced and would have a lot to prove before being a title contender. Kennedy and Malsam will have all the tools that Jeb Burton would have been a title favorite with though.
Peters will have stiff competition from fellow veterans Crafton and Sauter as well as young guns Blaney and Wallace Jr but 2014 will be his and Red Horse Racing's time to shine.Tags: Camping World Truck Series, Clayton Caldwell, Darrell Wallace Jr., Gene Wachtel, Jeb Burton, Johnny Sauter, Mark Eddinger, Matt Crafton, Motorsports, NASCAR, Red Horse Racing, Ryan Blaney, ThorSport Racing, Timothy Peters