Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, held a Q&A session in the Lowe's Motor Speedway Infield Media Center after Thursday's practice session and discussed a variety of topics. ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus HOW ARE...
Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, held a Q&A session in the Lowe's Motor Speedway Infield Media Center after Thursday's practice session and discussed a variety of topics.
ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus
HOW ARE YOU PREPARING FOR THIS WEEKEND'S RACE?
"We're doing pretty much the same thing we've been doing all year. We're not doing anything special. To us it's just another race weekend, whether the points are involved or not. We're looking at it to try to come win this race. It's in our backyard - a lot of family and friends of our crew members and stuff get to come to this race, so we haven't done anything special. We just came out here and got the car pretty good, we think, in qualifying trim and we're gonna see if we can win this race Saturday night. I think it would be cool to win the first Saturday night fall race at Charlotte, so that's kind of what's on our mind right now."
ANY TRACKS YOU'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT FIVE WEEKS?
"I'm looking forward to all of them, but some of them really fit my driving style. Definitely Lowe's is one of them. Darlington, we know we're gonna run good at Darlington. I think we're gonna run good at Atlanta and Homestead. The only two I think we really need to test and really worry about is Martinsville and Phoenix. We tested Martinsville last week. My teammate, Dale Jarrett, is going to Phoenix to test and, hopefully, we'll get to use a lot of his notes. Those are the two tracks that I think might be our weakest parts. The other ones I think we're gonna be really, really good. We should have top-five cars there. Hopefully, we'll have the right pit strategy and the right luck and we can get what we can get as far as points and move on."
WHAT HAS BEEN THE KEY TO THE RYR TURNAROUND?
"I think it all starts at the top and we've got one of the best car owners, I think, in the business. He understands support. He understands about keeping the team morale where it needs to be. Through all the hard times last year, he was always in a positive mind and was willing to make changes. He made a lot of changes last year during the season to get us where we need to be and I love racing for a car owner like that. He brought in a man named Eddie D'Hondt, who has absolutely turned this racing program in 180 degree direction going the other way, where we're back to where we can be competitive each and every week. I love working with Todd Parrott. I know DJ enjoys working with Mike Ford and we're all working together as a one-team two-driver atmosphere and I think it's paying off for our race team. We've got some great pit crews. My team is still leading the McDonald's pit crew challenge and that's all thanks to Eddie for corralling the right guys and we've kind of put it all together. We've got a strong race team with a lot of depth on it and we're definitely making the most of it."
YESTERDAY YOU RAN 294 LAPS ON THE LOWE'S TRACK. CAN YOU EXPLAIN?
"Yesterday I got to go to Jillian's, which is over here in the mall, and raced on an X-Box. It's called X-Box Live and it's actually online. I got to race against people all over the United States around Lowe's Motor Speedway, so I did run 294 laps. They were hard laps. These guys are really good and they were hooked up to where we could all talk to each other while we were racing. I think now after doing that, that's the one thing we're missing now in real racing. I could actually talk to the guys I was racing with and try to mess them up, so it was a lot of fun. I really appreciate X-Box letting me do that. I'm a big X-Box fan. Everybody knows me. I'm a huge video game buff and they let me do that yesterday. I made a lot of laps here - won the race and wrecked a few times, so hopefully I got all of that out of my system and I'll be good this weekend."
IF YOU WIN THE NEXTEL CUP, A FAN WILL WIN $250,000. WHAT ARE YOUR CHANCES?
"They're getting better by the week, I think our odds are. I remember going to Vegas this year to test before the Daytona 500 and seeing the odds on my championship and they're a lot better now. We're definitely improving on it every week. I haven't been nervous at all the last few weeks. I've just kind of been having fun until she (Joyce Bertucci) just told me about her winning a quarter of a million dollars and how much it would change her lifestyle. Now I'm pretty nervous.
"I've got a lot more to lose now than I thought, so, hopefully, we'll be able to both share in a winning atmosphere this winter. I told her we could both make a lot of money if I can win the Nextel Cup. I signed a hat for her and put on the hat, 'Good Luck in the Chase.' So if she has good luck, I'll have it too. Hopefully, we'll both be winners when it's all said and done."
THE SPORT IS CHANGING FROM AN AVERAGE AGE PERSPECTIVE. YOUR THOUGHTS?
"I think it is changing a lot - it's changing right in front of our eyes. I think the comments you're referring to are the comments I made about a lot of the drivers retiring is scary to me still being, hopefully, looked at as one of the young guys still in this sport. It's scary to me and some of the other guys that we really need to understand what the older guys have done for us - what they have done with this sport in the eighties and early nineties when it maybe wasn't as popular as it is now - what they meant to the fans and how they bridged the gap between the drivers and the fans and really got our sport going in the right direction. Us drivers really need to understand that and young guys coming in. We really need to understand about carrying the torch forward. I think the most symbolic race in the history of NASCAR racing is kind of when Richard Petty ran his last race in Atlanta it was the same race that Jeff Gordon ran his first race. That's kind of passing the torch on to a new breed, a new era of young drivers coming in. I think Jeff Gordon really set the standard of if young drivers can come in this sport and put a good, experienced team around him, you can have great success. I think we've seen that here, especially in the last four or five years - young kids coming in with good teammates with experience and car owners putting good equipment around them. They're good spokespeople and I think sponsors like that. They really like young guys coming in that are clean cut guys and they understand the race car and the owners believe in them and they want to grow together. It's cool to come in, I think, at an elementary level with a young driver and a new sponsor and grow together - grow the two names as one - and I think that's where this sport is heading. But I think us as young drivers really need to step up and really try to carry a torch on as much as these older guys have. They have gotten us in this position where we're part of the number one growing sport in the United States and we've got to keep doing our part. We've got to carry the load to keep making it go forward, so younger kids 10-15-20 years from now will have the same opportunity that we've had because of them."
DO YOU SEE GUYS RETIRING AT YOUNGER AGES NOW?
"I think that's the way of sports now. I think you see it in professional basketball. High school kids are getting drafted a lot more. Who heard of that 10 years ago? People are jumping on younger kids with talent early in their age and trying to mold them into something they really want to be with and represent. I can't see me racing to be 45, 46, 47 years old because the schedules are a lot different now than I think when these guys first started racing. I see my age group of guys keep talking that they're gonna retire around 40. Maybe the age keeps coming down and it's gonna continue to get harder because there are so many more demands on our lifestyle each and every year as far as sponsorships, as far as testing, racing - stuff like that. If we keep expanding the schedule, that's a lot of time away from home, so I think we want to come into this sport and be competitive and run good and then I'm thinking around 40 or so I might want to own a car by then or do something else. But by then, the way the sport is changing, there are definitely gonna be some 17, 18, 19 year old kids that are ready to get in these cars and can do a good job with them. I think it's very smart on Rick Hendrick's behalf and some of the other teams that are really going after these young guys - get them in their equipment where they're used to running Hendrick-style race cars or what have you - and can mold them to what they need to know, learn about them at an early age where it doesn't cost as much to race in a lower division. By the time they get into Busch or Truck or Cup where the expense is high, they've gone over a big learning curve and they're way ahead of the game. So I think it's very smart on a car owner's part to kind of do that."
HOW HAD DJ HELPED YOU AS A TEAMMATE SPECIFICALLY?
"I think last year was the most difficult year I think I've had in racing because we had such high expectations to go to the 38 car. Not only myself, but Dale Jarrett probably had the worst year he'd ever had at Yates racing, but his attitude never changed. It never changed toward his crew, toward his family, toward the owner, towards the sponsor, towards the fans - anything. I'm a person that I wear my feelings right here on the sleeve where everybody can see it, and I just learned that this sport is gonna drag you through the mud one week and then the next week you're gonna be standing on the top rung of the ladder. But you cannot let that affect your life around the people you love or around your crew because they feed off you - you're the quarterback. I'd come in the shop all mad and disappointed about wrecking the car or whatever we did last year and drug the whole team down and didn't even know I was doing it. And sharing time with Dale Jarrett and him showing me to stay upbeat no matter what. Don't let whatever is affecting you affect everybody else. You'll be a lot better person to get along with. You're gonna do your job a lot better, and he's really shared a lot of great hints with me. I remember at Richmond. Everybody knows how upset my teammate was at Richmond that he did not make the top 10 and it was very disappointing because I feel like they have a top 10 team. That Monday, I got a call and we talked for an hour about things he can help me with to try to win this championship. He's been there and he's done it. He understands what each track is gonna throw at you. He understands what other competitors are gonna do to try to throw you off your game. It was, 'Hey, Elliott, this is the mindset you need to have. This is what you need to try to do to win this thing. Let's have fun with it. Call me anytime day or night if you need any advice about this, this or this.' It means more to me than anything. It's just cool that I've learned so much from him - most of it away from the race track. How to be a better person. How to be a better friend. How to be a better representative to fans and sponsors and stuff like that. I became more at peace with myself. When I get to the race track, I understand what I need to do now as a race car driver - not only to run good, but do the things I need to do to represent my team and my sponsor the way you should."
WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR YOU TO WIN THE TITLE?
"I don't know. We're gonna just try to go and win every race. We think that Kurt Busch has been very, very consistent and we wouldn't wish any bad luck on anybody, but I think he's gonna have to have at least one slip to let a couple of us back in the game. But, really, my team and I sat down and talked about it this week. It's really the first time we talked about it in the first couple of race, but we think we need to outrun the 24 car every single week. We think he's the guy that's gonna be the one, when it's all said and done, that's gonna be the guy to beat for this championship. If you look at it, the 97 and the 8 have the same amount of championships I have and that's zero. We don't really know what's gonna happen as the road unwinds, but the 24 car and Jeff has four championships. I think he understands the pressure. He's been in tight championships before and I think he knows what pitch is coming next, so we think as a team if we can just try to focus on outrunning the 24 car every week, if we can do that and gain points on him, we have a great shot of winning this championship."
DO YOU THINK GUYS WILL RETIRE EARLIER BECAUSE OF SCHEDULING AND THE FACT THERE IS MORE MONEY TO BE MADE?
"Sure. I think scheduling is tough. I've been busier this year than I've ever been. I saw my mom today for the first time in about two months. That's tough for people that usually share a lot of time with their family. I don't see how some of these drivers do it that have a wife and kids at home and they're in school or doing sports and things and they get a report over the phone all the time. That's tough. I'd rather try to race to 40, 41 years old and go home and try to raise a family where I can spend some time with my kids. I mean, that's kind of the way I'm looking at it. Will it happen like that? I don't know, but it's tough. Scheduling is tough. We've got a lot of great sponsors on our race cars and they all want a little piece of your time. You also want to try to spend time at the shop and you also want to do all the testing you can do. There are a lot of demands on us right now, especially with being in the chase for the Nextel Cup. It's been fun, but it's been time consuming as far as we want to make sure everybody knows that the M&M's car is in the chase and we have a chance to do it and we want to represent Nextel the way that we should. They've come in and made a great impact on our sport and we want to be a part of everything they're trying to do to promote our sport. It's been fun, but I think that's a big part of it. I'm sure scheduling and money has a lot to do with it, but it's just hard for me to see how some of these guys spend so much time away from home. It's easier for drivers because we have motorhomes and stuff like that that we can get our families to us, but these pit crew guys - I've seen a generation of them getting younger and younger too. My race team, there might be two guys over 30 years old on the whole team that travels - everybody else is younger than that, so I see the generation of that changing also because of that."