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Snowball Derby

Johnny Sauter crashes early on Snowball Derby practice day

Matt Weaver | STS

Johnny Sauter’s highly-anticipated debut at Five Flags Speedway lasted all of three laps.

The 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion brought his own Super Late Model to the Florida Gulf Coast in the hopes of making it into the most prestigious short track event in the country.

On his first timed lap at 10:15 a.m., his No. 5 immediately began leaking oil and he was forced to the garage area to correct the issue. He returned 30 minutes later, posted the 17th fastest lap up to that point, before disaster struck the very next lap.

The 39-year-old was in apex of Turns 3 and 4 when his brake pedal went straight to the floor. He drilled the outside retaining wall in Turn 4, an incident that completely destroyed his only car.

“The brake pedal went right to the floor,” Sauter said.

The issue wasn’t related to the leak that cost him time early, however.

“Not even close,” he said. “It’s racing.”

Other teams have offered him their backup cars, including Kyle Busch Motorsports.

“We’ll have to see if the price is right,” he added.

Armed with a trio of sponsors in Smokey Mountain, Triple K Construction and Deppe Enterprises, this is the first time the former Late Model ace turned NASCAR champion has made the trip south for the Derby.

With that said, the Sauter family does have a rich history in the event. Johnny’s brother Tim Sauter finished fifth in the 1997 Derby and ninth in 1998. Johnny’s father Jim also competed in the race back in 1980 and with a 15th place result.

Now all eyes turn towards the rest of the garage to see if Sauter can find another entry before deciding to return home to Wisconsin.

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He is also the associate motorsports editor of Autoweek Magazine and its website, which allows him to cover the highest levels of the sport.

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