Two full-time seasons in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. One win and two pole awards. That is all GMS could claim at the end of the 2015 season. But going into the final months of 2015, as we prepared for the 2016 season, I knew that something truly special was happening in Statesville. In the off-season we made some huge moves; the biggest one being signing NCWTS veteran wheelman Johnny Sauter. The move proved to be the right one a couple months later as we punched our ticket into the first ever NCWTS Chase with Johnny capturing the win at Daytona International Speedway. Fast-forward 9 months and 5 more team victories (2 of which belonged to Johnny) - GMS had officially arrived on the scene as a serious threat to win the 2016 title.
2 wins and a runner-up finish in 3 straight races led to a ton of momentum for the final race, but also a lot of pressure.
As we arrived at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Johnny was listed as the number one seed in the championship standings following two wins, at Martinsville and Texas, and a second at Phoenix. This led to even more pressure as we entered the weekend knowing that it all came down to how well we performed in this final race due to the "winner-take-all" format. The race didn't really begin the way the No. 21 team wanted it to with Johnny qualifying 19th. That meant not only did they need to make their way to the front but they had to make sure the other three championship competitors ended up behind them. But as the race progressed the guys made the perfect calls on pit road, and before we knew it Johnny had wheeled it inside the top five. 20 laps to go and one championship contender stood between him and history....and then BOOM. Johnny made the championship pass to 3rd to put himself in position to lock up the title. What followed felt like 5 hours, but in all reality was only 13 laps around the 1.5-mile track. Everyone was either pacing or kneeling down, refusing to look up. White flag. Everyone sprang up and jumped onto the pit wall, staring down the start finish line waiting to see that No. 21 cross one final time.
Then the silence was broken as the radio erupted as Johnny crossed the line and the realization took hold that we had just become the 2016 NCWTS champions. What followed was one of the most amazing things I've ever witnessed; pure joy being shared between a group of people who had been through a year of ups, downs and unknowns. This continued in Victory Lane as Johnny exited the truck and fist pumped to the realization that the Sauter name, a name synonymous with 40 years of NASCAR racing, would now be listed in the Champion column. A true racer had won the title, and damn it felt good.
Proud really doesn't begin to describe how I feel about this entire GMS team. The challenges that come with preparing and running four full-time truck teams are countless, but each and every time our guys stepped up to the plate in the shop and at the track. So watching us bring home a championship this early into our program is an amazing feeling for this team, and it's beyond humbling. We truly have something amazing going on at GMS and all of our guys deserve every accolade in the book for all the hard work they put into this program, and this title is just the beginning.