NASCAR suspends Johnny Sauter one race; he remains eligible for Truck title

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NASCAR suspended Johnny Sauter for this weekend’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race, but he will remain eligible to compete for the truck series championship after intentionally wrecking Austin Hill under caution in Sunday’s race.

NASCAR did not penalize Hill.

“We look at the history of everything we’ve done and react with the precedents we have set while tailoring it with the situation we have at hand,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, in a statement. “In this case, Johnny Sauter’s actions certainly warranted being sat down for an event, but it felt a little too harsh to take him straight out of the championship. We think that we landed on what is fair and a deterrent.”

Section 17.6.2.1.c of the Truck rule book gives NASCAR the latitude to allow Sauter to be eligible for the playoffs despite missing a race. That rule reads:

17.6.2.1 ELIGIBILITY
a. “Unless otherwise authorized by NASCAR, driver(s) and Team Owner(s) must start all Championship Events of the current season to be eligible for the Playoffs. If a starting position was not earned, then the driver(s) and Team Owner(s) must have attempted to Qualify for the Race.”
The key phrase is “unless otherwise authorized by NASCAR.” Series officials felt that denying Sauter a chance to be in the playoffs was too harsh.

A ThorSport Racing spokesperson told NBC Sports that the team had not decided if to appeal. The spokesperson said the team would not be releasing a statement on the penalty and has not made a decision on who will drive Sauter’s truck this weekend.

Miller explained Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio what series officials will do with Hill.

“We’re not completely done with him,” Miller said. “I wouldn’t think that there is a penalty forthcoming for this. He’s definitely placed himself under a microscope when it comes to behavior out there on the race track.”

The penalty to Sauter is in addition to the action NASCAR took after the incident Sunday at Iowa Speedway. NASCAR parked Sauter after he retaliated and wrecked Hill.

The feud between the two drivers went back to the previous race at Texas Motor Speedway where Hill’s contact sent Sauter into the wall.

At Iowa, Sauter made slight contact with Hill and got by him. Hill responded by hitting Sauter and sending him into the wall. Sauter came back under that caution and wrecked Hill.

Section 12.8.1.c of the Truck rule book provided penalty guidelines for such an infraction. It reads:

“Member actions that could result in a loss of 25-50 driver and Team Owner Points and/or $12,500-$25,000 fine and/or one Race suspension, indefinite suspension, or termination:
  • Physical confrontation with a NASCAR Official, media members, fans, etc.
  • Member-to-Member confrontation(s) with physical violence and other violent manifestations such as significant threat(s) and/or abuse and/or endangerment.
  • Attempting to manipulate the outcome of the Race or championship.
  • Intentionally wrecking another vehicle, whether or not that vehicle is removed from Competition as a result.”

Meanwhile, Sauter announced on Twitter his new racing plans for Saturday.