Harrisburg, North Carolina - Elliott Sadler, current Winston Cup Series "Rookie of the Year" competitor and interim driver of the ...
Harrisburg, North Carolina - Elliott Sadler, current Winston Cup Series "Rookie of the Year" competitor and interim driver of the #47 MONRO Muffler Brake & Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the NASCAR Busch Series, qualified first round for the Coca Cola 300 at Texas Motor Speedway despite a lack of practice, but finished 42nd with engine failure on Saturday, March 27, 1999.
Sadler, who is filling in for the injured Andy Santerre, was confident of a great race weekend. Sadler, along with former teammate, Jeff Green, was the co-qualifying record holder at Texas Motor Speedway for the past two years and he finished 2nd in last year's Busch race. He was confident of another respectable run at Texas.
"I like Texas a lot," the 24-year old Sadler agreed. "This track has been real good to me and I seem to race well here. I think the reconfiguration of the track will only make the track better and I am optimistic for the race."
Mechanical failure continued to plague the MONRO Racing team as a strange noise in the engine was detected and pieces of metal in the oil filter caused them to change motors and miss the second and final practice session before time trials.
"There was a knocking in the motor," Dave MacMaster, engine builder for the #47 team, admitted. "I knew something wasn't right and I didn't want to take a chance on ruining the motor. I made the call to take the motor out because I didn't want to injur it past the point of repair. At least now we can take it apart and fix the problem without junking the entire motor."
The crew changed motors for the third time this season and missed the last practice before qualifying. The track changed, according to the other drivers, but the MONRO team was hesitant to make a major change to the chassis without a chance to practice. They put the motor in and sent Sadler out with a minor adjustment, a hope and a prayer.
"It was a little tense since we didn't really know how the car was going to react," Mike Greci, the team's crew chief, explained. "We didn't want to make a major change since we weren't going to have a chance to practice it. We just tweaked the chassis a little and sent Elliott out."
Sadler turned a lap of 30.107 seconds (179 MPH) which was good enough for 21st starting position in first round qualifying. It wasn't the pole, but the team knew they were in the race and that left them an extra two practices to get the car fast in race trim.
"This team works hard and builds great race cars," Sadler complimented. "We didn't have a chance to practice before time trials, but the guys put their heads together and came up with just the right change to get us in the show the first day. That is a big relief and it gives us that much more time to work on race set-up."
Sadler started the race on the inside of row 11 but fell back a few positions at the drop of the green flag. The car was real neutral, but 30 laps into the race the motor started to go flat, 63 laps into the race, the motor gave up and the MONRO Muffler Chevrolet retired to the garage area.
"I hate that this happened," Sadler explained. "These guys are hard working and dedicated to giving me the kind of car I need. They build great race cars, some of the best I have ever driven, and it is a shame that faulty parts are plaguing them."
"This is the fourth motor we have blown this season," crew chief, Mike Greci, said "It is a shame since it isn't anything we can foresee. You can't blame the engine builders for parts failure, but we need to narrow the failure down and fix it. We are much better than we have raced in the last few races." Greci continues, "There have been a lot of other teams blowing motors this season. We have been asking around for a general consensus and think we have the problem narrowed down."
Equipment failure happens to every team at some point or another, but it is a frustrating part of racing since it can't be foreseen and it can't be prevented. Every time something happens, the team learns what to look for, and what to do or what not to do, to prepare the racecar better.
"We're all getting an education right now," MacMaster says. "We are learning the hard way, but we are learning. Every time we have a mechanical failure, we learn how to prepare for it and how to prevent it, if possible."
Sadler and the MONRO Muffler Brake & Service Chevrolet finished 42nd after completing only 63 of 200 laps.
The MONRO Racing Chevrolet heads to Nashville next weekend for the Opryland 320.