Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, is experiencing the best season of his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series career. He has been in the top-10 in points standings all season, and is seventh heading into Sunday's race. Through the 2004's...
Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, is experiencing the best season of his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series career. He has been in the top-10 in points standings all season, and is seventh heading into Sunday's race. Through the 2004's first 12 events, Sadler has one victory (at Texas) and five top-10 finishes. Dover marked the seventh time this year that he qualified in the top 10. He'll start sixth tomorrow.
ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus
HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO TAKE A MOMENT AND ENJOY YOUR SUCCESS YET?
"I don't really look at it like that. I think with the new point system there's so much a sense of urgency you just can't let your guard down. I want to enjoy it after the 26th race. I feel like the pressure will really be lifted off of our shoulders after the 26th race, if we make it into the top 10, because then you can kind of go for broke and really take a lot of chances and things like that, because you know you're going to be in the top 10 in points and you do whatever you gotta do to try and win that championship. But, right now, every point is so valuable and qualifying is so valuable, pit selection is so valuable, so it makes all three days of the weekend so intense that the part of enjoying it has probably not really happened yet. We want to log as many points as we can and kind of go from there before we start getting relaxed or excited about maybe having a shot to win the championship."
SO, YOUR THINKING IS: SEVENTH ISN'T SIXTH, AND SIXTH ISN'T FIFTH...?
"That's right. We're not really looking at it as sixth, seventh, eighth, where you are in the points position, but how many you're ahead of 10th or how many you're ahead of 11th, and how many you're behind the leader. It's kind of what we're looking at. Yeah, it's great to be seventh, I'd love to be sixth, but instead of seventh, I'd rather be eighth but have more of a lead on 10th than what I have in seventh. It's not really points position, that's the way these points have changed. It's how much cushion you have behind you and how much you keep the spread between you and the leader of the points. Right now, we're racing the 8 car and the 29 the most, because they're the guys who are leading the points and are 10th in points. So, that's kind of what we're looking at right now."
YOU'VE TALKED ABOUT STUDYING THE POINTS STANDINGS AND KNOWING WHICH DRIVERS YOU'RE COMPETING WITH. OTHERS ARE TALKING ABOUT STAYING IN WITHIN 400 POINTS OF THE LEADER. ISN'T THIS A LITTLE EARLY FOR THAT?
"No. We're halfway. This is halfway, the Dover weekend, and if we can come out of here with a 100-point cushion or a 50- or 60-point cushion on 10th, we're going to be pretty happy about that. No, I don't think it's too early. We started talking about it before we went to Daytona, making sure we have everything as bullet-proof as we can on the car, make sure all the ignition boxes are working like they should, in case we lose one we can go to the back-up. It's just little stuff like that we try to do at the beginning of the season that will help us in every race. So, I don't know if it's ever too early to start worrying about points and what you have to do."
YOU'VE SAID THAT ONE OF THIS TEAM'S BENCHMARKS THIS SEASON WAS TRYING TO FINISH IN THE TOP 10 IN EVERY OTHER RACE, THAT THAT SHOULD KEEP YOU IN THE TOP 10 IN THE STANDINGS. YOU'RE A LITTLE BEHIND THAT PACE, BUT STILL IN THE TOP 10 IN POINTS.
"If we keep that going, because we have some tough race tracks coming up. We've got Daytona and Sears Point, which are kind of like two wild-card races, so we need to try and get a top-10 at Dover and Pocono and Michigan to give us a little pad to get to those two tracks in case something happens. Anything can happen at those two race tracks. So, that's kind of the way we're looking at it. The tracks that we know and we think we can run good at and be successful, we really need to log a top-10 or as close to the top-10 as we can. I know we don't have many top-10s, but I got a bunch of 12th-place finishes to go along with them, which is close. So, we're kind of near our mark where we need to be and we understand the races that we left some points on the table, like Atlanta, we left some points on the table, and Talladega, that things shouldn't have happened to us. So, we kind of know how to overcome that and we think that that's made our team stronger and we just want to keep that from happening again."
YOU WERE FIFTH-FASTEST IN YESTERDAY'S PRACTICE, AND THEN SIXTH-BEST IN QUALIFYING - AT A TRACK WHERE YOU HAVE JUST ONE CAREER TOP-10 FINISH.
"I really like this race track. I feel like it's in the top-five tracks that Elliott Sadler knows how to get around. We just never really had the luck that we needed to have or have just been in certain situations. Last year here we had a top-five car the whole race and I didn't clean my tires off enough, in the last run we fell back to, like, 18th. But we ran good, so that's a good confidence booster for me, that we actually had a good car for all 400 miles. It fits my driving style, and the guys brought me a comfortable car, and I think we can do the same thing we did at Charlotte. At Charlotte my best finish wasn't until last week. We think we can improve on that and get my best finish here this weekend."
ANOTHER GOOD QUALIFYING EFFORT FOR YOU. CAN FRIDAYS SET THE TONE FOR THE WEEKEND?
"Oh, yeah. And because it is so hard to pass now, everybody knows how to make everybody loose, and everybody knows how pinch everybody off, and track position is A-plus, the number-one important thing that's going on right now in racing. When you qualify in the top 10 or as close as you can to it every week, you're going to have good track position. You don't really have to worry about pit strategy at the beginning of the race to try to make up a lot of time. That's a big focus of ours. We're like third or fourth overall, best qualifying effort for the whole year, and that's great for my race team. I think it's, like, 10th place we're averaging in qualifying, and if we can keep that up all year long, we're going to have a great season."