Thursday, January 10, 2019

THOUGHTS: Sauter Being Replaced at GMS for Cheaper Champion Moffitt

Driver Johnny Sauter during qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series JAG Metals 350 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

PENSACOLA, Florida (January 10, 2019) -- Johnny Sauter was released from GMS Racing’s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series No. 21 ride on Wednesday. The news comes just over a month away from the season opening race at Daytona. Brett, Moffitt, 2018 NASCAR Truck Series Champion, is expected to assume the spot vacated by Sauter.

“We cannot thank Johnny enough for his contributions to the growth and success of GMS Racing,” GMS president Mike Beam said in a statement released by the team. “He won the first championship for us and added a lot of trophies to our shop. We wish him all the best for his future endeavors, both in and out of racing.”

Sauter told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio host Dave Moody that the reasoning behind his departure is financial. He also added that he was told by GMS that Brett Moffitt would be assuming the ride.

“If he’s bringing something, it’s more than I’m bringing,” said Sauter. “Let’s just leave it at that. I don’t pay to race. If I had that kind of money, I’d be racing something else probably. … I had actually heard this rumor about being ousted out of that truck a month ago. I asked some questions and nothing ever was mentioned about it. Yeah, it’s late in the game, Daytona is a month away, there’s not a hell of a lot I can do about it. …. That’s the nature of the beast. It’s an expensive sport. Owners need money not just from sponsors today, but drivers as well

Sauter said that this change was being made due to financial reasons, with most assuming that they are sponsorship related, but are they really?

Brett Moffitt, who won the 2018 NASCAR Truck Series Championship, and did so driving for Hattori Racing Enterprises, found himself without a ride at season’s end because he did not have the funding necessary for his team to continue with him behind the wheel of the No. 16 machine.

While it’s possible that Moffitt has found yet to be announced funding, the more likely scenario is that his salary costs are less than the departing Sauter.

Johnny Sauter had raced with GMS Racing for the past three seasons. The 40 year old driver captured the 2016 Truck Series Championship with the team, and 2018 was a stellar effort with six victories. Thirteen of Sauter’s 23 career Truck Series wins have come with GMS Racing over the past three seasons.

With his recent accomplishments, and overall veteran status in NASCAR at large, it’s safe to say that Sauter expects, and gets, a decent salary… more than likely higher than that of the up and coming Moffitt.

Moffitt, enroute to his Championship, also scored six victories last year.

Is the notion that GMS is making this move because of the cost of the driver unheard of? In short, no.

Just look at Matt Kenseth’s departure from Joe Gibbs Racing. Rather than continuing to fulfill the salary incumbent of a NASCAR Cup Series Champion, JGR opted to let Kenseth go in favor of the younger, less expensive, Erik Jones.

This is all part of an ongoing trend sweeping the NASCAR garage where teams are saying goodbye to the high pay drivers of the heyday of the sport in favor of young, cheaper talent in hopes of building a new era within their operations.

Aside from thanking Sauter for his time with the team, official announcements regarding the next driver in the No. 21 have yet to be made by GMS Racing.

Currently, GMS Racing will have John Hunter Nemechek in the teams’ No. 23 Chevrolet Camaro SS in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and Sheldon Creed in the No. 2 Chevrolet Silverado in the Truck Series. Also announced is a K&N and ARCA effort with Sam Mayer.

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