|SOURCE: Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images|
The finish was Sauter’s first of the 2014 season and his first in a Cup Series race since May 16, 2010, when his race at Dover in Tommy Baldwin’s unsponsored #36 ended with electrical problems after 29 laps.
Since that Dover race, Sauter had made just four Cup Series starts before he was tabbed to drive the “start-and-park” #93 entry at Pocono. The preliminary entry list had Mike Bliss in the #93, as he had piloted the car in both its starts this season at Kentucky and Loudon. However, on Friday, it was announced that Sauter would drive the car while Bliss would race for TriStar Motorsports in the Nationwide Series race at Iowa.
BK’s #93 kept Sunday’s field at 43 cars, and with no drivers going home after qualifying, Sauter was guaranteed his first Pocono start in the Cup Series since his 36th-place run driving HAAS-CNC Racing’s #70 (now Stewart-Haas Racing’s #14) on August 5, 2007.
Sauter was slowest in the opening practice session, having turned just one lap at an average speed of 165.896 mph. He improved to 166.162 mph in qualifying, but still remained the slowest car in the field, guaranteeing him the 43rd starting spot. Kyle Larson, who earned his first career pole that day, timed in at 183.438 mph. Sauter was the only driver to not participate in either of Saturday’s practices, and the team prepared for its short run on Sunday.
On Lap 10, Sauter was running 4 seconds behind the next car when the caution flew for the first time for Jimmie Johnson. Johnson, who twice narrowly averted his first last-place finish in the previous three races, had made contact with the outside wall and cut down a left-rear tire. Sauter stayed on the track during the caution while Johnson lost a lap and briefly fell to 43rd. But on the restart, Sauter pulled off the track, and secured his last-place finish.
Johnson clawed his way up to 4th spot on Lap 111 when yet another cut tire ended his day with a hard crash in the tunnel turn. Between Sauter and Johnson in the Bottom Five were three drivers who were all involved in incidents during the first 52 laps. 42nd-place Kyle Busch lost the engine on his #18 M&M’s Toyota on Lap 24, leaving him with his worst finish since Dover. Landon Cassill ended up 41st when his #40 Newtown Building Supplies Chevrolet slammed the Turn 2 wall on Lap 30.
40th-place Joe Nemechek, making his first Cup start since Kentucky, crossed paths with Kasey Kahne coming off Turn 3 on Lap 52. Nemechek fought to maintain control, but made hard contact with the frontstretch wall. Frustrated with Kahne, who complained on the radio that Nemechek should have been parked, Nemechek returned to the track 34 laps down by Lap 85. He remained on track until Lap 132, when his Land Castle Title Toyota trailed smoke on the Long Pond stretch, ending his afternoon.
There was so much attrition in Sunday’s race that all of the thirteen drivers involved in the day’s biggest accident on Lap 118 finished outside the Bottom Five.
Dave Blaney, still the 2014 LASTCAR Cup Series leader, made his first Cup start since trailing the field in the June Pocono race. Driving the #37 Tommy Baldwin Racing entry which debuted with Bobby Labonte last week at Indianapolis, Blaney came home 26th, two laps down.
*This is the first last-place finish for the #93 in a Cup Series race at Pocono. It is the first for BK Racing at Pocono since June 10, 2012, when Landon Cassill’s #83 Burger King Real Fruit Smoothies Toyota crashed after 1 lap.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #93-Johnny Sauter / 11 laps / electrical
42) #18-Kyle Busch / 23 laps / engine
41) #40-Landon Cassill / 28 laps / crash
40) #66-Joe Nemechek / 88 laps / crash
39) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 111 laps / crash
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Dave Blaney (2)
2nd) A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Mike Bliss, Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Timmy Hill, Travis Kvapil, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Johnny Sauter, Morgan Shepherd, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Truex, Brian Vickers (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #77-Randy Humphrey Racing, #93-BK Racing (2)
2nd) #11-Joe Gibbs Racing, #14-Stewart-Haas Racing, #15-Michael Waltrip Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #32-Go FAS Racing, #33-Circle Sport, #38-Front Row Motorsports, #40-Hillman Racing, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #55-Michael Waltrip Racing, #66-Michael Waltrip Racing / Identity Ventures Racing, #78-Furniture Row Racing, #83-BK Racing, #87-Identity Ventures Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (8)
2nd) Ford (7)
3rd) Chevrolet (6)