If you’re a male from the Sauter family of Necedah, you’re destined to be a stock car racer.
Over the years, five Sauters have raced. When the ARCA Midwest Late Model series ran at the Wisconsin State Fair Park mile track, it was a Sauter family reunion at a track where the family has a great history. At last weekend’s race, three Sauters were in action and all three were in contention. Tim Sauter, now 49, raced against his son Travis Sauter, 31, and his brother Johnny, 36.
If the Sauters are so tough, it’s possibly because they race each other so hard, nearly coming to blows after on-track clashes.
“We’re definitely guilty of that,” Tim Sauter admitted. “I’ve had run-ins with my older brother Jay; Johnny and I have had run-ins, and now Travis and Johnny had a run-in last year at Oktoberfest. Some guys just stand back and watch us go at it.”
The Sauter family racing story begins with Jim Sauter, now 71 years old. Jim Sauter emerged in stock-car racing prominence with the original American Speed Association, which was known for years as the nation’s best pavement stock-car racing circuit. It was a series that produced NASCAR Champions such as Alan Kulwicki, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson.
In the time when the International Race of Champions was the sport’s all-star series, Jim Sauter was one of three Wisconsin drivers who set up the identically prepared cars for the star performers. Jim Sauter, Dave Marcis and Dick Trickle were the drivers who made sure IROC races were so close. Trickle, who died last year, is remembered on the Truck Country-sponsored car that Tim Sauter drove in the Milwaukee race. It carries Trickle’s number, 99.
The Sauter family race number is 5, beginning with Jim Sauter. The other two Sauters in the Milwaukee race carried that number. Travis Sauter had the 5 on the Habel Brothers Cranberries and Lester Buildings-sponsored car he drove, and Johnny had the same numeral on his Calypso–sponsored car.
Johnny Sauter, who made a special trip to the Milwaukee mile for what was a family-reunion race, is the Sauter with the most current success in national-level racing. Johnny won the ASA National tour title in 2001 and was the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie of the year in 2009.
He’s near the front in the Truck Series point standings after a top-10 finish in a series race last weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway. As soon as that race was finished, Johnny Sauter rushed to make flight connections to return to his home state for the Milwaukee race.
“This is as good as it gets for me,” Johnny Sauter said in the Milwaukee Mile’s pits. “I’d as soon be here as anywhere else.”
The West Allis fairgrounds mile, with its origins in 19th-century horse racing, has been the home track for the Sauters. It’s a place where they’ve succeeded against the best in the sport. Johnny Sauter won a race in the NASCAR Nationwide series at the mile in 2005.
Travis Sauter, Jim Sauter’s grandson and Johnny Saunter’s nephew, also has won on the fairgrounds track. Two years ago, when the ARCA Midwest Series first staged a 150-lap race at the mile track in memory of the late championship crew chief Howie Letow, Travis won the race, adding to his victories in ARCA Super Late Models.
The Juneau County native began his racing career at a Juneau County race track, the Dells Raceway Park, where he began by racing street stocks in 2002.
“That’s what my family was into ever since I can remember. It was just natural for me,” Travis said in describing his racing heritage.
Johnny Sauter has been one of the series’ top drivers. He won a Milwaukee Mile race in the NASCAR Nationwide series in 2005.
The only active-racing Sauter not in action at the ARCA Midwest Tour event was Jay Sauter, who has competed in both NASCAR’s Nationwide and Truck Series, winning a Camping World Truck race in 1999 at the same Texas Motor Speedway where his brother Johnny raced just before the Milwaukee race.
When the latest Swiss Colony Howie Lettow Memorial 150 Presented By RaceTeamGear.com was run at the mile track, Johnny Sauter was the first member of the family to move to the front. He seemed ready to challenge for a victory, but his car faded and he had to settle for 25th. Tim Sauter had a solid run to fifth, behind teenaged Michigan driver Erik Jones, who won in Kyle Busch’s car.
Travis was scored 25th, but he knows this tough sport doesn’t always go your way.
“It’s fun at times and at times it’s frustrating,” he said. “I think that’s the same for anything you do.”
However, Travis may have been more concerned about another event. His wife is pregnant and is near her due date. The next competition will be whether the baby is born by the time that Travis is expected to race with the ARCA Midwest Tour on June 28 at Dells Raceway Park.