NASCAR suspends Johnny Sauter for retaliatory crash, preserves his playoff eligibility

NASCAR issued a one-race suspension to Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver Johnny Sauter on Tuesday for his retaliatory on-track actions on Sunday at Iowa Speedway.

Sauter was involved in an altercation with driver Austin Hill that resulted in race control parking the 2016 series champion for the remainder of Sunday’s race. The sanctioning body also stated that his waiver would not impact his playoff eligibility.

The penalty means Sauter gets a weekend off at Gateway Motorsports Park on Saturday night. A decision regarding a possible appeal were not immediately announced.

Hill and Sauter were involved in a series of racing incidents early in the final stage of the race, leading to Hill driving deep in the corner to send Sauter into the wall on lap 136. Under the ensuing caution, Sauter issued payback by drilling his truck into Hill’s and sending both trucks into the wall.

Sauter was scored 27th in the final rundown, while Hill nursed his damaged truck to place 12th in the 32-truck field.

Any punitive decision towards Sauter was made complicated by the fact that he had already won a race on May 3 at Dover International Speedway, provisionally locking him into the eight-driver playoff field. The playoffs are only eligible to drivers who start every race or those who miss races and receive a waiver from the sanctioning body.

The playoff format meant NASCAR was forced to find a middle ground between too stiff of a punishment, especially given that Hill seemingly crashed Sauter with intent first, or offering too light of a penalty since Sauter’s payback came with safety trucks on the track.

Hill is currently seventh in the standings and Sauter is eighth. Hill won the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway and is also provisionally locked-into the playoffs.

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