Starring Role: Elliott Sadler Relishes Time Behind the Wheel; On Camera *Learning Processes: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya Anticipating Richmond Race * NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Director John Darby Pleased with Richmond Test DAYTONA...
Starring Role: Elliott Sadler Relishes Time Behind the Wheel; On Camera
*Learning Processes: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya Anticipating Richmond Race
* NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Director John Darby Pleased with Richmond Test
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 4, 2007) -- Perched atop a director's chair in the Richmond International Raceway media center, Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) covered many subjects Wednesday -- among them, his 14th-place ranking in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings heading into the Easter off-week.
Eleven points shy of 12th place, the cutoff for the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, Sadler knows he's poised for improvement. But he's also comfortable on and off the track, particularly with a new starring role.
Among the topics covered during Wednesday's lunch break -- the second day of this week's two-day series test at RIR -- were his cameos in several current NASCAR-oriented commercials. And Sadler promised that another, yet-to-be-debuted spot is worth the wait.
Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) are some of Sadler's co-stars in the spot, which necessitated multiple takes.
"We were crying," Sadler admitted. "I mean, crying-laughing for a couple hours at a time trying to film it. It took all day to film it because Kevin and I, we kept messing it up."
Filmed just last week, his latest commercial airs soon. It also likely places Sadler in a spoof role, something he embraces.
"I like the race fans to get to see the lighter side of some of our personalities," he said. "We're always so busy at the racetrack, always so focused. You know, I don't mind being the fall guy or the idiot or the guy that gets the joke played on him in the commercials. That's who I am. I laugh. I can laugh at myself with the best of them."
On track, it was all business, as Sadler and his team spent this week's test trying to unlock more handling and set-up secrets for the Car of Tomorrow -- NASCAR's next-generation race car. The key, he feels, is the willingness to buckle one's helmet and do one's homework.
Fifty NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams completed the two-day test. When they return in early May for the "Crown Royal Presents the Jim Stewart 400," they'll run their fourth event of 2007 with the Car of Tomorrow, and likely rely on knowledge gleaned from this week's test.
"We're definitely learning more as a whole -- as NASCAR, officials and team owners and drivers and everything alike -- more about this Car of Tomorrow every time we race it," Sadler said. "By the time we race it at Phoenix, by the time we finish the testing the last two days, by the time we get back, we'll have a good handle on the Car of Tomorrow."
This week's test marked the fourth of seven NASCAR-scheduled series tests in 2007. The culmination of a seven-year project at NASCAR's Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C., the "COT" underwent its first on-track test at Richmond, in the summer of 2004. Teams will use it in 16 of 36 series events in 2007.
And with Evernham Motorsports teammates Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) and Scott Riggs (No. 10 Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge) enduring early struggles -- Kahne is 34th in points, Riggs 36th -- Sadler sees his team as a source of organizational hope.
"Kasey has had some terrible luck and so has Scott," Sadler said, "and we really feel they're not only trying to dig out of a hole not only in points but also as far as getting some more data and trying to figure out these Cars of Tomorrow a little quicker than we have been."
Car Of Tomorrow Test An Eye-Opener For Dale Earnhardt Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya
Two other Wednesday visitors to the media center, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge), discussed progress and patience, both with the Car of Tomorrow and their own progress following the season's first six events.
"I think the racing will be good," Earnhardt said of the May event at Richmond. "A lot of guys are running in the middle, moving the grooves up, so that's a good sign. It's a great race track."
Montoya, the former Formula 1 star who trails Roush Fenway Racing's David Ragan (No. 6 AAA Ford) by one point in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings, saw yet another unfamiliar track this week. But he seems unfazed.
"I have six months of racing in the stock car against, what, 10, 12, eight years, 16 years?" Montoya said. "So it's a little bit of a thing that you've just got to be very openminded about it.
"I think that helps me a little bit, I'm very open minded about trying stuff, and I think you cannot be scared of trying things here because you might surprise yourself with what works and what doesn't."
Earnhardt, the three-time and defending winner of Richmond's spring event, applauded NASCAR's recent modifications and decisions following the Car of Tomorrow's first two events.
"I think that the Car of Tomorrow, we'll learn a lot of little nuances and things like that within the car and make changes as we go with NASCAR," Earnhardt said. "They've done a great job up to this point. They're being real lenient in a lot of areas with the car. As we start to understand it, they'll start to tighten the grip a little bit on the technical inspection and whatnot."
Well Done: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Director John Darby Satisfied With Test
Weather worries preceded this week's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup test at Richmond, but in the end, two mostly sunny, warm days allowed teams all the time allotted in the season's fourth test.
"Mother Nature came our way and made it a couple of pretty nice days," said series director John Darby.
Originally scheduled from 1-9 p.m., NASCAR changed Wednesday's time to a 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. schedule, wary of possible inclement weather. Predicted rain never materialized, and nearly all of the 50 teams in attendance worked until Wednesday's 5 p.m. finish. The fact that teams will use the Car of Tomorrow upon their return to Richmond seemed a footnote.
"Pretty uneventful," Darby said, "but one of the things that gets lost in the process is that it's just one of the seven scheduled series tests."
He noted that teams worked through all sorts of variations during the two-day session, from set-up and handling explorations to on-track navigation.
"We watched a lot of teams today try to move a half-lap higher on the race track to widen the groove," Darby said.
Perhaps most important is the fact that this week's data will transfer to the next Car of Tomorrow race, at Phoenix International Raceway in two weeks, as well as the first Richmond event in May. Darby said certain aspects also will help teams later in the year, at New Hampshire International Speedway. Richmond is a three-quarter-mile venue. Phoenix is a one-mile track and New Hampshire is a 1.058-mile track.
"To choose a test here is smart by our race teams," Darby added, "because the information that they learn is information that they can carry beyond just the Richmond event.