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See what drivers have to say about keeping friendships on the track RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Photo credit: Jim Fluharty/NASCAR Illustrated Is it hard for drivers to maintain friendships with one another? Austin Dillon, Sprint Cup Driver, ( @austindillon3 ) "It's harder for some drivers than it is for others. You just have to learn how to have friendships with those guys because you see them so often. There's a balance between being a friend or just a guy that you know. It can be tough to hit that balance." Brian Vickers, Sprint Cup Driver, ( @BrianLVickers ) "It goes both ways. You have this common interest and respect for each other because of what you do. They are also your competitors. You race with them each week and things happen. You get in accidents, you get mad at each other, so friendships come and go. The respect is probably what keeps friendships together." Kevin Swindell, Nationwide driver, ( @KevinSwindell ) "It can be. A lot of guys go off the old adage, 'If you want friends at the race track, bring them with you.' As you get older, your mindset tends to change. You forgive a little quicker and get to thinking that not everyone is out to get you." Elliott Sadler, Nationwide driver, ( @Elliott_Sadler ) "No, not at all. I've got a lot of friends in this sport. It's almost like a traveling family. You're with drivers more than you're with your own family. You might have an issue with somebody, but you're such close friends, you talk it out and work through it." Have you ever been surprised by how a driver you thought was a friend talked about you or raced you on the track? DILLON: "Yes, at certain times, I've gone, 'Wow, I didn't think he'd say something like that.' Or other drivers have done things after the race that left me saying, 'I don't know that guy.' But you always get over it because there are times when all of us act out of character." VICKERS: "For me, what happens on the track is on the track. I may be mad or disappointed about how someone handled a situation, but that's purely for how they handled things on the track. I wouldn't let it change how I felt about them as a friend." SWINDELL: "There's always something, but you've got to stop and ask yourself, 'Would I have done the same thing to them?' If that's the case, you've got to calm down and let it slide." SADLER: "You run into that all the time, but it’s in the heat of the moment. I'd say 75 to 80 percent of the guys out here are great guys who would do anything in the world for you. But you've got to go out there and race hard and know where to draw the line." Have you ever gotten to know a driver for the first time and come away thinking, "That guy is cooler than I thought?" DILLON: "First impressions are big with me. I feel like I know where someone stands pretty early on when I meet them. I have talked to some guys and come away thinking, 'Man, that's a good guy.' I have also thought, 'Man, that guy is a loser,' and then spent 30 minutes with them and come away thinking totally different of them. I've learned that you've got to be open-minded with everybody. You've got to give everyone a chance." VICKERS: "You have perceptions of people and sometimes that changes when you get to know them. With people in the public eye, you're almost forced to make a judgment of them before you really know them based on what you’ve seen of them. Then you meet them and maybe get a different impression." SWINDELL: "Sure. There are always people that have a reputation one way or the other, and you come away surprised that they are different than you thought." SADLER: "I've had that happen a couple of times, and I've talked to drivers I didn't really know and felt like, 'That guy is going to have a tough time.' " SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Father of Johnny Sauter made 76 career starts in premier series Jim Sauter, a racer and father of four drivers including NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Johnny Sauter , died on Friday night shortly before the conclusion of the Truck event at Texas Motor Speedway , according to ThorSport Racing. He was 71. Sauter competed in 82 NASCAR national series races from 1980 to 2004, including 76 premier series starts. The native of Necedah, Wisconsin, made his final NASCAR Nationwide Series start at the Milwaukee Mile in 2002, racing against his sons Jay, Johnny and Tim. Jim Jr. followed in his father's footsteps as well. In addition to these four sons, Sauter is survived by his wife, Debbie, eight additional children, 51 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and two sisters. A two-time champion in the ARTGO Racing Series in the Midwest, Sauter tested International Race of Champions cars with fellow Wisconsin racers Dave Marcis and Dick Trickle. His son, Johnny, learned of his father's passing following Friday's Winstar World Casino & Resort 350. His lone win of 2014 came at Michigan International Speedway , and he acknowledged it was a special victory in his post-race comments that recalled his dad's recollections of the track. "I'm just going to relish in this win because this has been a tough, tough race track for me throughout my career," Johnny said. "My Dad always said, 'That place is easy.' But, I never felt that way. Until today, I mean when you have a truck like this -- it was just awesome." NASCAR issued the following statement on Jim Sauter's passing: "NASCAR offers its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jim Sauter. A true racer, Jim passed on his passion and competitive spirit to his children and grandchildren. A driver himself with roots in the Midwest, his reach and impact extend across the entire sport." The racing community expressed condolences on social media with a sample included below from Sauter's former competitor Mark Martin ; fellow Wisconsin racer Roy Kenseth, father of Matt; crew chief and former IROC chassis specialist Ray Evernham and NASCAR Senior Vice President, Racing Operations Jim Cassidy. Sorry to hear Jim Sauter died. He was a really good man and a great racer. — Mark Martin (@markmartin) November 1, 2014 Thoughts and prayers go out to the Jim Sauter family today. pic.twitter.com/ydHNAQcXQT — Roy Kenseth (@roykenseth) November 1, 2014 Really sorry to hear about passing of Jim Sauter. Worked with him for many years at IROC. Crew chiefed for him at Pocono 1990 #RIP — ray evernham (@RayEvernham) November 1, 2014 Thinking about the Sauter family. Jim Sauter's contribution to stock car racing and NASCAR will be felt for many generations. Good man. — Jim Cassidy (@jfcassidy) November 1, 2014 MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Johnson still king of California, but he has heady company
Nationwide honors No. 9 JR Motorsports team on Champ's Day COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Nationwide Insurance officials rolled out the red carpet -- OK, make that the blue carpet -- Tuesday as the departing series sponsor welcomed 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Chase Elliott and the No. 9 JR Motorsports team to its headquarters. Elliott, 18, became the youngest series champion while also earning Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors this past season. He and members of his team spent the day in Columbus visiting the Nationwide Children's Hospital, participating in a Nationwide Insurance "Marketing U" panel discussion and signing autographs, with tours of Nationwide Arena (home of the Columbus Blue Jackets NHL franchise) and Woody Hayes Athletic Complex (at The Ohio State University) taking place as well. The team capped off the day with a return trip to the arena to take in the Blue Jackets' game against the Philadelphia Flyers -- which the Blue Jackets won in a shootout. That the celebration honored his entire team, Elliott said, was important. "I really think, at least as far as my guys -- I don't know about anybody else's -- I know my guys have made me look a lot better than I really am this season," he said. "Take it or leave it, that's the truth. I respect them and all that they do. "I know how much work and effort goes into these cars in trying to improve and make them better each week. All that … plays a role, every little bit counts and those guys know that. Especially the guys that travel on the road and work during the week. They don't get a day off from February through November. People don't realize that. I have all the respect in the world for them." Nationwide Insurance has supported the Children's Hospital for more than 50 years. According to officials, it is the third largest ("and second busiest," Elliott is told) pediatric hospital in the country. The hospital treats approximately 1.1 million patients annually, and its patients come from all 50 states as well as 33 countries. This past season, the NASCAR Nationwide Series returned to Mid-Ohio for the Nationwide Children's Hospital 200. Proceeds from the event benefited the hospital, and 10 "Patient Champions" were featured on various cars in the event. Tuesday, those Patient Champions were treated to a visit from Elliott and the team, posed for photographs and were presented gifts, which included sheet metal from the cars representing each child. The panel discussion at Nationwide Insurance's corporate headquarters, which took place inside the Jeffers Auditorium, touched on a number of subjects, from Elliott's success at such a young age to the value of teamwork. Jim McCoy, director of strategic sponsorships for Nationwide Insurance, noted the company's impending departure, but also stressed that it would remain involved in the NASCAR realm -- as a primary sponsor for Dale Earnhardt Jr . in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as well as title sponsor of the Mid-Ohio event. "We've made a lot of incredible relationships," McCoy told the group. "First and foremost with JR Motorsports, we've worked with them the last six years and they've been such a big part of the Nationwide Series. "To have them finish with the championship was a great way to cap that relationship. It was … important for us to finish strong, go out with class and style the way that we approached all seven years (of our association). "We couldn't be happier with the way things turned out, not only with Mid-Ohio, but having a young champion represent our last year." During the Blue Jackets' game, Elliott was interviewed between periods by the team's radio host while co-owner Kelley Earnhardt Miller and husband L.W. Miller (director of motorsports at JRM) participated in a game of "Name That Tune" shown on the arena's video screens. And team members were on the ice during a break to help with an ice go-kart challenge race. Elliott, who will return to defend his series title with the team in 2015, said afterward that being able to spend time with his team and take part in the Nationwide visit was special. "I've had fun with it," he said. "You know I spent a lot of time watching these races on TV, sitting home on the couch, more than I have being a part of them. From watching it on TV to being a part of it firsthand, I can really tell you how much Nationwide puts into this. I hate to see them go. I think the sponsor that follows definitely has big shoes to fill. "Just to see their involvement and how much they care this season and the effort they put into everything is far more than I've ever seen before from a sponsor for a series. It's been very cool to see." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule