March 25, 2001 Bristol Motor Speedway Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, registered the first NASCAR Winston Cup victory of his career and the second straight for Ford with today's triumph in the Food City...
March 25, 2001 Bristol Motor Speedway
Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, registered the first NASCAR Winston Cup victory of his career and the second straight for Ford with today's triumph in the Food City 500. This marked the first win for the famed Wood Brothers since Morgan Shepherd captured the Motorcraft 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1993. The win was the 97th for the Wood Brothers, which ranks fourth on the all-time NASCAR Winston Cup owners list.
SADLER VICTORY LANE:
"It feels awesome. To do it here in front of 130,000 people, at my favorite race track in the world. I remember the Busch race we won here and I always wanted to come back here in the Cup car and run good. It was very emotional the last 10 laps. I didn't know whether to celebrate or cry or concentrate or what. I'm just really proud that Motorcraft really stuck in there with us and it's good to get their first win. I want to thank Jack Roush and everybody involved in this organization. They've worked hard and this win was due."
WERE YOU NERVOUS?
"Yeah. The last 20 laps seemed like 100 laps. It was a very emotional win. I never thought we'd get to see victory lane this early, but a lot of hard work has gone into this race team. Ford Motorcraft has come on board and given us a lot of resources that we need to make this team better. It means more to me to put those guys in victory lane than anything else in the world."
WHAT ABOUT THE CAR?
"This was our backup car. We trashed our primary car in practice. I told everybody all winter that this is a better race team than what it was last year and Bristol is my favorite race track, so I can't think of anywhere better to win it than right here."
HOW WERE THE TIRES AT THE END?
"It was right on the money. It was pretty good. I knocked the toe-in out a little bit with Harvick, but I was more nervous and crying and didn't know what to think or what I was gonna say more than looking at my lines and doing what I needed to do. A lot of hard work went into this. I just want to thank the Wood Brothers and Motorcraft and everybody for giving me a chance."
ELLIOTT SADLER POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE
"It's hard to put in words what this day means to me. Bristol has been my favorite race track since I used to come here when it was just cement on both sides of the race track. We'd drive up from Emporia -- all the way up 58 to come here. I got my first Busch Series win here a couple of years ago and thought it was just the most amazing thing in the world, but nothing takes precedence over the last 10 laps today -- the feeling I had. I didn't know whether to cry or shake or -- all I could see was John Andretti and what he was doing for the Petty organization. It's just a big day for the Wood Brothers. We had a terrible year last year and everybody knows that. Instead of making changes behind the wheel, they decided to stick with me. We got ourselves a new sponsor with Motorcraft on board and really got this team going in the right direction. I think I told a lot of people at the media tour, 'Hey guys, this is a different race team than what we had last year.' And probably 85 percent of you all didn't believe us, but now I think we've got something to back it up a little bit with and it's just great to be able to come to this place and win. I cannot tell you how special it is to be in victory lane for the Wood Brothers for the first time since 1993. They're definitely the nicest team in racing and the way they treat people, I wish everybody could be treated like that. It's pretty good to give back what they've given me the last couple of years."
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WITH BEING ON OLD TIRES FOR SO LONG. DID YOU FIGURE
YOU WOULD GET PASSED?
"I said, you know what, we were on old tires and what I was thinking was, 'If we start up here, I'll just let the guys pass me as they get to me. We'll finish seventh or eighth. It's better than coming in and trying to put new tires on and finishing 15th or 16th and having a wrecked race car.' But the more we ran I was like, 'Man, they're not running all over top of me. This thing's not too bad.' When Pat hollered out 'Twenty laps to go' and I was starting to have a little bit of a gap between me and Andretti -- and I saw where Mayfield was having a hard time trying to get around John, it was like, 'Man, we've got a chance.' And then the last 10 laps, I'm gonna tell you all right now, it was the longest 10 laps I ever dreamed of driving in my life. I kept saying to myself, 'They ought to go by a lot quicker. This is Bristol. We go around here in 16 seconds.' But it felt like an hour for every corner. Then when I came off to get the white flag coming off turn four and I saw I had three or four car lengths on John Andretti, I just emotionally started crying for the whole last lap. I don't know what to say. I love this sport more than anything in the world and to be able to win takes a lot of pressure off of me and I love doing it."
HOW DID IT FEEL WHEN YOU SAW HARVICK DROP OFF?
"I said, 'Wow' because I really wanted to try to lead one lap today. I was gonna get up there and really try to race him hard for one lap. I booted Skinner on the restart before, so when him and Michael came over there I said, 'Well, I'm just gonna let Skinner go and I'll just kind of ride here and see what Harvick does.' Then I saw the left-front of Harvick starting to go down and saw him starting to spark. Then I was like, 'Wow, I'm at least gonna lead one lap today,' and I led my one lap. Then we had a caution and I said, 'We're gonna lead 10 laps today,' and then it just kept adding on and adding on. I'm just as surprised as you all were with 50 laps to go that we would still be able to hold those guys off the last 50 laps. I knew we had a good race car on long runs and we didn't touch the car all day because of that reason. I hadn't run with the guys up front all day. I knew they were fast, but I didn't know how fast they were, so I was just as surprised as you all were that we were able to hold them off the last 50 laps."
EDDIE WOOD, Co-Owner --21-- Motorcraft Taurus
HOW DID YOU KEEP ELLIOTT'S CONFIDENCE UP?
"You just keep beating on him. You just keep beating on him. Elliott will get down on himself every now and then, but Pat Tryson came in and they're real tight -- they're a close-knit pair. They talk daily and anytime Elliott would start to get down a little bit, Pat would jack him up, slap him around a little bit, and get him going in the right direction again. Elliott did a great job today.
"When we made the decision three years ago to hire Elliott, we had faith in him. We knew he could do it. Together we've had a lot of hard times the last couple of years and a lot of people doubted us, but we just kept believing in ourselves and Elliott. Elliott believed in us and Motorcraft came on board when we needed them the most and that's the key to it. They jumped in when we were probably at our lowest point. I'd just like to thank Motorcraft, Ford Motor Company and the Air Force for jumping in with us and making all of this possible because without those guys we would not be here, I promise you."
WHAT DID YOU THINK YOUR ODDS WERE OF WINNING TODAY?
"Honestly, I never thought about having a chance at winning. I was saying, 'You know what, starting this far back on the back straightaway, if we can get ourselves a top-12 or a top-10.' We always talk about 120 or 130-point days is what we need to survive in this points game. I'm a very pessimistic person. I'm a realist is what I call it, but they say pessimistic. The glass is always half empty with me, so when I came today I did not really expect to win. I figured the only way we could get ourselves a top 10 was to just stay out. On that last pit stop when some of the guys pitted, we decided to stay out and see what the world was gonna give us. Pat is a very optimistic person, so that's the biggest difference in my this year. He's very optimistic and sees the glass half full and that's helped me a lot as a race car driver. Maybe now I'll start thinking maybe we can win every week. Maybe we've got some confidence on our side." HOW DOES $124,700 FEEL? "That feels good. I've never won anything like that before. That's great, but I'm gonna honest with you on one thing. I race because of racing. I've never ever looked at a sheet on Monday morning to see how much money I've won. I could care less. I just want to make sure I run good and do a good job for Eddie and Len. I did not know that the Wood Brothers had never won before at Bristol. I figured they had won on every race track on the planet, but I didn't know they hadn't won here at Bristol. I know Dale Jarrett got his first win with the Wood Brothers and now with me being able to do the same, it's pretty special."
AFTER THE CONTACT WITH HARVICK, HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO KNOW THE CAR WAS
"I don't know if you all scan us or not, but I hollered in about the second lap after I hit him that I thought I had a right-front flat because my car started pushing. I think all I did was probably knock the toe-in out a little bit, so then I was mad about that -- not at him, just a racing accident, but the car ended up being OK. We were a little bit tight at the end, but it was fine. I thought for two laps, 'Here we go again. We're in a position to run good and somebody is gonna bite me on the back again,' but for some reason the man upstairs was looking over us and everything was fine and we were able to come to victory lane. I think it was a great day for the Wood Brothers and also a great day for Petty. As much as they've struggled this year, to have John Andretti finish second says a lot for their program also."
WAS IT SPECIAL TO SEE THE 21 AND 43 BATTLING AGAIN FOR THE WIN LIKE THE OLD DAYS?
"At 15 to go that's when I realized, 'Hey, that's the 43 behind us.' Our history and our heritage was the 21 and the 43 and the 43 and the 21. That made it a lot more special, but us winning this race as a group here is a testament to NASCAR. People ask us all the time, 'When are you gonna get back? What's it gonna take? What do you gotta make happen to get back on top?' And my answer is, every week is a new week. You can go from the bottom to the top in one week in NASCAR and I think that's what makes this sport so special. All the guys at NASCAR -- Mike Helton, Kevin Triplett and the France family -- I'm just proud to be a part of it."
LEN WOOD, Co-Owner --21-- Motorcraft Taurus
DID YOU TALK TO YOUR PARENTS AFTER THE WIN AND WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WON A SHORT-TRACK RACE?
"Mom and daddy weren't here today. They were home watching. They watch every week. They pull for us just like they're here with us. We were talking to mom on the cell phone when we walked into this room and she was real proud. The last short-track race we probably won was Kyle Petty at Richmond in 1986. We won right at the end under caution when there was a wreck with about five to go."
HOW ABOUT PAT TRYSON LANDING WITH YOU.
"It's weird how stuff like that happens. You don't want a team to shut down so you can try to go hire people like that, but I became really good friends with Pat about halfway during last year and we would toss around stuff the last couple of races last year when we lost our crew chief. We had the same beliefs. It's hard to find people in racing that have the same beliefs, that know the carpet is gray when it's gray. You come from so many different areas that you talk different things. We just got along. What I like more about Pat Tryson than anything in the world, he's very optimistic and he takes care of those guys. Guys on our crew, every race team, work their butts off 24/7 and they don't need crew chiefs hounding them all the time. They need people behind them, supporting them 100 percent and that's why I like him more than anybody I've ever worked with. He really stands behind his guys just like Sandy Jones did when I drove Busch for him. That makes me prouder to know him more than anything else we do."
PAT TRYSON, Crew Chief --21-- Motorcraft Taurus
"It was strange how it worked out. We started talking more with Len, Eddie and Elliott at the end of the year when they started getting Roush cars and everything. Obviously, we became good friends. I get along great with Elliott and Len and Ed and I can't say how thrilled I am to be working for them because, like Elliott said earlier, they treat people awesome. I'm just thrilled to bring a win for Glen, Len, Ed and Kim. They've done so much for me, believed in me -- and Jack Roush -- to believe in me and give me this opportunity. I'm glad to pay them back in one small way and, hopefully, we'll do many more."
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?
"Hopefully, it means we can stay in this sport a little longer. When you're down like we've been down the couple of three years or five years or whatever -- struggling -- you wonder if you're gonna get that next deal or get back to where you're competitive every week and stuff like that. You worry about qualifying every Thursday night. You can't sleep Thursday night's waiting on Friday's qualifying. It's just a deal that I can't really put into words what this means. I was there for the Pearson-Petty crash in '76 and all the wins that people say, 'What is your biggest win?' This today is our biggest win."
HOW DIRE WAS YOUR SPONSOR SITUATION LAST YEAR?
"We were in negotiations last summer with the sponsor we had and things were up and down with it. We were struggling and Dale Jarrett walked up to me at the Indy test and he asked me if we had signed our deal. I said, 'No, we haven't.' He said, 'You need to talk to Ford Motor Company.' I said, 'OK.' So the next week we met with them in Pocono and I think 10 days later we had a letter of intent. That's how quickly it came together. At that time it was Quality Care, but it's the same group of people and they just changed the branding to Motorcraft. It happened within a couple of weeks time and it just turned our whole life around. They came in and gave us enough support to do some things that we couldn't do before and here we are."
"I'd have to say it's the biggest win in eight years anyway. Like I say, I can't describe how this feels. The pressure is off, although the pressure will be back on tomorrow morning. But for right now, we're just tickled that we're the ones sitting here instead of John Andretti or Jeremy Mayfield."
AS LONG AS YOU'VE BEEN IN THIS SPORT. HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT STEPPING AWAY?
"No. Never. Even on your darkest worst day you never think of stopping racing. This is what we do. This is what you eat, drink and believe in. I don't golf, I don't hunt. He hunts a little, but we don't do anything but race. We don't care anything but racing and that's why it's so special. Now maybe we can stay a little longer."
WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING?
"Next week. You've got another opportunity to do well. If you have a bad day on Sunday, you get up Monday and that one's behind you. You go forward and it's another week. Like now, we're going to Martinsville in the morning and Martinsville is one of the tracks we really struggle at, so Monday and Tuesday we're going over there and test and then we're heading on to Texas. You don't live by dates, you live by what weekend it is. I couldn't tell you what the day is. I have no idea what the date is, I just know it's the day we're in Bristol. Tomorrow we're in Martinsville, next week we're in Texas, then we're in Martinsville, then a week off and then we go to Talladega. I couldn't tell you if it's April, May, March or whatever."
THIS WAS YOUR BACKUP CAR. WHERE DID THIS COME FROM?
"I'm gonna tell you what, the car we wrecked the first lap on the race track is the car I finished seventh with here last year, so I had high hopes of coming back and trying to duplicate that finish and the driver messed up. I spun out and had to come in and looked at a lot of long faces as we rolled the backup car off the trailer. I had been to the shop every single day this week getting ready to come to Bristol, so I know all the hard work that went into it. But the car we won with here today is the exact twin sister to it and we carried it as a backup every week. I don't know why now, it wins, but that is the same exact car that I felt we should have won the Winston Open with last year and I got wrecked with two laps to go in turn three. We have not run that car since then. That car has been in our shop. We took it to the wind tunnel last week and it showed good number, so when they pulled it off the trailer I was not worried -- a little bit maybe because of where we had to start -- but Pat and the guys were not worried at all. We put the same springs -- everything we ran here last fall we put in this car yesterday about halfway during happy hour and we were able to run pretty good. I'm not used to bringing really good backup cars to the track, but that's something Pat believes in and these guys believe in and it worked out for us this weekend."
DOES JACK WANT HIS CAR BACK?
"Jack actually went to victory lane with us. We told him if we ever, ever won a race he was going with us, so he walked in with Len and I. He was in there too crying like the rest of us. I'd like to thank him for all he does for us too because he's helped keep us in racing."
WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE TIRE RUN?
"Normally, I didn't think they could go that long, but after watching the Busch race they didn't really drop off. Watching throughout the race, our car on long runs was as good as all the leaders. He didn't know that, but we knew that sitting up there. The decision was, 'How do you get your track position?' Well, at that time we didn't have many laps on 'em, so we left 'em on and once you make that decision you're stuck with it. Fortunately, Elliott made it pay off for us. Goodyear had a tremendous tire. I can't say enough about them all season. They've been awesome."
HOW MANY LAPS ON THE LAST SET OF TIRES?
"From lap 338 to the end counting caution flags and everything. To add what he said, I didn't think the tires would go that long either because I was watching Fox this morning before the race and Bobby Hamilton said they would go that far. Then I started thinking, 'Well, maybe they will go that far.' They interviewed him and he was talking about how people were running the same times on old tires during the Busch race, so when we were out there thinking about pitting, I was like, 'Well, no some of the guys say you can run pretty good on old tires.' Goodyear has been able to let us do stuff like this. You don't have to pit under every caution, so the same guys up front all the time. Now you can mix it up a little bit -- you don't have to pit or can pit off sequence because the Goodyears are so good this year."
WAS STAYING OUT A LOGICAL CALL?
"He asked me how my tires were because we had a caution on lap 138 and put tires on. Then we ran to about lap 160 and they had another tire. He asked if I wanted to come in and get tires, but I said that those tires felt pretty good and we decided to stay out a while. We figured when everybody pits on lap 450 we'll pit then and have good track position. We didn't know everybody was gonna go the rest of the way, so at the time it didn't really feel like a big roll of the dice until we had a lot of cautions back to back to back. It made our green flag laps not as many on our tires as what they probably should have been. At the time, it was not a big roll of the dice and it just ended up working out for us."
DOES WINNING NOW GIVE YOU HIGHER EXPECTATIONS?
"Yeah, it does a lot. I'm not gonna lie to you. I was sitting in Mark Martin's trailer last night after happy hour talking to Jimmy Fennig and looking at some time sheets and he said, 'Well, we feel like we've got a car good enough to win.' I said, 'Well, I just want 120-point day' and he looked at me real funny, but sometimes when you don't win every week and don't run in the top five every week, we look for top 15s and stuff like that and no DNFs to stay up in the points. That's what we have done the first three or four races of this year is make sure we get at least 100-point days when we can and stay out of trouble because we're tired of being 30th in points. We're tired of being field fillers and stuff like that. We want to be up in points and try to qualify a little better. This does change our expectations, but I felt like from the first time I ever set foot in a Winston Cup car I told everybody that my first win would either come here or Texas and it was here. Hopefully, we'll go to Texas and maybe try to do it again. I feel we should run good there also."
FROM LAP 338 ON WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS?
"I kept expecting several of them to pass us that we'd hopefully end up with a top five. It wasn't until about 12 to go that Jack Roush came to the pits biting his fingernails. He said, 'I think you can do it.' I said, 'I don't know, there's still time. Something could still go wrong.' With about five to go it hit me, 'I think we're gonna do it.'"
THOUGHTS DOWN THE STRETCH.
"When we made the call I figured those guys would be coming. I was scanning a couple of them and their cars didn't seem to be as good as ours was, but I didn't really think we had a shot. Then we began to stretch the 43 a little bit a couple of times and then the 43 would get back. But with about 10 to go I was watching the monitor and were a half-tenth quicker or a couple hundreths, but it was quicker. I was kind of hoping that if the 12 got to the 43 they would get back there and mess around a little bit and we could get gone, but I also heard one of the track guys say that there was some debris somewhere. I said, 'Well, here it goes. They're gonna throw a caution.' But they didn't and then I heard him say it was completely out of the way. It just worked out. Like I said, I couldn't tell you my name with 10 to go."
REACTION WHEN ELLIOTT TOOK THE CHECKERED FLAG?
"I think I was in his lap. I thought we were both gonna fall off of here and kill ourselves because I was wondering what he did. We couldn't see what he was doing (on the cool down lap)."
AFTER THE CHECKERED FLAG?
"Jack was standing right there and I was just hugging Jack and Leonard and all the guys. Everybody was just patting each other on the back."
"We were all fighting for radio space. Everybody wanted to holler at the same time. I kept waiting. I was coming off turn four and I was gonna holler and then somebody else hollered and somebody else. We were all fighting for radio time."
IS THIS MORE SPECIAL WITH IT BEING 100TH YEAR IN FORD RACING?
"I tell you what's cool about this win. I told the guys when I took a left to come up victory lane the first person I saw was Jay Novak and he's our Ford rep that really takes care of us. Ford has given us like 15 times more wind tunnel time than we've every had in our entire life and has really opened the doors to us, I guess because we carry the oval on our car and this Motorcraft logo. To do it in their 100th year, it's pretty special."
ANY GOOD LUCK CHARMS?
"I got my lucky coin here. A four-star general gave it to me today before the race started and told me to keep it in my pocket and I sure did. I'm not gonna enlist, but this thing will probably be in my pocket probably for the rest of the year. This is pretty special coin. I'm not gonna blame it on that, but I'm gonna use it as long as I can. They say, 'Ride the horse as long as you can.' I'm gonna ride this thing as long as I can."