Johnny Sauter scores CRA Speefest pole; will start seventh on Sunday after invert

Matt Weaver

NASCAR driver Johnny Sauter is on the pole for the big CRA Super Late Model race in South Georgia on Sunday but will have to start seventh following a pre-race invert.

CORDELE, Ga. -- Placing one's heart and soul into a task is cliché for most in stock car racing. But in the case of Johnny Sauter and his Super Late Model program, it's an irrefutable fact, the culmination of hours spent when the NASCAR driver isn't focused on his Truck Series ambitions with ThorSport Racing.

His time and effort was partially rewarded on Saturday night when he scored the pole for Sunday's ARCA/CRA Speedfest event at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, Ga.

Sauter has driven this car on seven other occasions and led each race, including last year's Speedfest, but has yet to score a win in the car that he's built from the ground up. And while Sauter is pleased to have posted the fastest time, he wants to take this car to Victory Lane on Sunday.

"It was rewarding (to sit on the pole)," Sauter told SB Nation after qualifying. "But we've taken this car all over, to some PASS races, Midwest Tour and the CRA and we want to win with it. I just hope we have something that can race with them for 200 laps and that's primarily what I have been focused on during the winter."

See More: Sauter, Ragan look to take Speedfest bragging rights to Daytona

The first major Super Late Model qualifying session of 2014 turned out to be extremely exciting with the fastest time changing hands throughout the duration of the single car qualifying night. Georgia natives Bubba Pollard, David Ragan and Chase Elliott each occupied the top three spots before Southern Super Series champion Daniel Hemric bested them halfway through the field.

When asked immediately after getting out of the car, how it felt, Hemric said the car "was terrible" and that his fast time wouldn't stand. That proved prophetic when John Hunter Nemechek posted the best time just a few cars later.

But it was ultimately Sauter, the penultimate qualifier that topped the charts, breaking the track record with a blistering lap time of 15.562. While Sauter's lap officially declared him as one of the favorites, the long-time short tracker says he has to make it to end of the 200 lap race before he can boast confidence in winning.

"You have to be patient," Sauter said. "We just drew a seven in the invert so we're going to start seventh. There are a lot of young guys still learning to race and sometimes they make mistakes so we're going to have to be cautious. You have to race hard but you have to be cautious too."

Nemechek was surprised to be so close to the pole, figuring that he had a better shot at winning the top spot in the Pro Late Model qualifying session which preceded the Super Lates. Even though he had to settle for second and with his initial hesitations about qualifying, Nemechek is confident that he has what it takes to win his first Super Late Model race on Sunday at the tough 3/8-mile bullring.

" We look to keep our nose clean tomorrow but look, this goes to show you what hard work and effort gives you and I'm excited to show what we have," Nemechek said in the impound area after the session.

With Sauter drawing a seven in the invert, the top seven qualifiers are reversed. That places NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver David Ragan on the pole. He says he has a "car that's good enough to win" and hopes to simply be around at the finish -- something he wasn't able to accomplish in last year's Speedfest after contact with Chase Elliott.

The race will also feature NASCAR driver John Wes Townley with the national touring contingent set to do battle with Late Model aces like Bubba Pollard, Hunter Robbins, TJ Reaid and Casey Smith. Speedfest is composed of two different events -- a JEGS TOUR Pro Late Model Series event and the 200 lap ARCA/CRA Super Series race.

Speed 51 will provide live play-by-play updates and have traditionally provided a radio broadcast of the event. The starting lineup, following the invert, can be viewed below. Green flag is set to wave at 2 p.m. EST.

Follow the author on Twitter for live updates.

CRA Zaxbty's Speedfest Starting Lineup

  1. David Ragan
  2. Scotty Ellis
  3. Casey Smith
  4. Chase Elliott
  5. Daniel Hemric
  6. John Hunter Nemechek
  7. Johnny Sauter
  8. Preston Peltier
  9. Bubba Pollard
  10. T.J. Reaid
  11. Austin Theriault
  12. Russell Fleeman
  13. Kyle Grissom
  14. Jeff Cannon
  15. Lee Tissot
  16. Donnie Wilson
  17. Brandon Jones
  18. Hunter Robbins
  19. Anderson Bowen
  20. John Wes Townley
  21. Clay Rogers
  22. Spencer Davis
  23. Spencer Wauters
  24. Dwayne Buggay
  25. Kyle Bryant
  26. Garrett Campbell
  27. Dalton Grindle
  28. Brandon Oakley
  29. John Coffman

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