When NASCAR Busch Series driver Tim Sauter declared himself a racing free agent over the Christmas break, the signs looked bleak for his former team AP Performance Racing. The team have now confirmed that they have ceased operations.

The state of the economy has taken its toll on the NASCAR Busch Series team AP Performance Racing. The Canadian-owned operation with driver Tim Sauter announced they are ceasing operations effective immediately.

The team spent the last several months searching for sponsorship and preparing for the 2003 season, but no sponsor could be found and the team has closed its doors.

The AP Performance Racing team had a strong debut season in the NASCAR Busch Series in 2002. Tim Sauter finished 13th in the driver's standings and the team ended up 17th in the owner's standings in its first season of competition.

"We hate to see it come to this stage because the team showed so much promise," said Alan Pinsonneault, Vice President of Motorsports Operations for AP Performance Racing. "We really wanted to keep this operation going, but it takes money to do so, and we just couldn't find any willing backers. These days finding sponsorship is tough, because everybody's budgets are tight. We had some pretty good leads, but in the end, none of them panned out into what we needed to keep this operation going."

Team owner and Canadian businessman Alec Pinsonneault partnered up with his ASA driver, Tim Sauter, to build a NASCAR Busch Series team for the 2002 season. Pinsonneault allowed Sauter to oversee the development of the team, which was quickly established in a completely revamped state-of-the-art shop in Mooresville, NC. Sauter was also responsible for hiring all new personnel and preparing the team.

Despite the disadvantages of being the new team on the block, the AP Performance Team quickly began to show promise on the track and by the end of the year they were a threat to run in the top-10 week in and week out. The AP Performance team finished the season with seven top-10s and a best finish of sixth.

"This team shocked a lot of people and showed a lot of dedication and talent for being a first year team," said Pinsonneault. "Many of our guys stayed on right to the very end to see if we could keep the team going. That says something about these guys. We wanted to keep the doors open for all of them and for Tim, but when the money isn't there, there is nothing you can do about it. We really wish Tim and all the guys on the team the very best in the future."

AP Performance Racing started several years ago in the American Speed Association. In just a few years, the team captured the 1999 ASA National Championship with Tim Sauter as the driver. Two years later Tim's younger brother, Johnny, took the AP Performance team to the 2001 ASA National Championship. In 2002, the team started racing in the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series with Tim Sauter once again behind the wheel.

"It is really unfortunate that the cards had to fall the way they did, but that is the state of motorsports today," said Sauter. "We wanted to keep the AP team running for the 2003 season because one year is just not enough time to develop a brand new team and we all saw some big things on the horizon for us, but we just couldn't find a sponsor to keep it going. Unfortunately, we are at a state where we have to sell the team."

Anyone interested in purchasing the team and all of AP Performance Racing's assets can contact Sauter at the AP Performance Racing shop for the next two weeks at 704-658-9832 or at 704-224-3157 for more information. Plans call for the team to be sold as a turn-key operation.