ELLIOTT SADLER -- No. 38 M&M's Ford Fusion (Qualified 1st)
HOW WERE YOUR LAPS?
"It's a great qualifying effort for us. This is my Daytona car that we qualified pretty well with at Daytona and won the Duel race with and finished in the top five with it in the 500, so we knew coming down here we were gonna be pretty close. We made about a 20-lap run yesterday in race trim and we thought, 'Man, this is as good as we can get it.' I knew the guys, when we rolled off today, we were gonna be in good shape. Going early was an advantage because it was not as windy and to be able to get the pole like we did is just great. I'm the lucky one sitting up here talking to you guys, but Doug Yates and his engine shop are just doing an unbelievable job. I think he's got three out of the top five and six out of the top 10 are his motors, so that's just a lot of hard work. Tom Gant and the guys have done a good job back at the shop in getting these motors prepared for this race. I'm the lucky one to drive it today. Today shows off how much hard work is going on with all the engine stuff and all the body and chassis work that these guys do. It's just an honor to be able to drive a car that's that fast."
DO THEY DO ANYTHING BACK AT THE TRUCK STOP WHEN YOU WIN A POLE OR RACE ANYMORE?
"No, I don't know if they do anything at the truck stop, but everybody that knows my dad usually says he gives better deals on cars if I run good on a weekend. If I have a bad weekend, don't go try to buy a car that week. Wait until we have a good weekend. That's the only thing I know my dad does. I don't know how much stuff they do at the truck stop or not."
DOES A POLE COUNT?
"I don't know if winning a pole counts or not. I'll ask him that because he still runs the show at home and I don't want to open my mouth and not be able to back it up. Let me get back to you on that."
HOW DO YOU LIKE TALLADEGA AND RESTRICTOR PLATE RACING OVERALL?
"Talladega is a good place to come if you drive for Robert Yates Racing. Everytime we unload down here we're gonna be fast. Our cars are gonna drive good. Our motors are gonna be good, so as far as a company standpoint, this is a good place to come race for us. Restrictor plate racing to me is still just tough racing. We're all up on top of each other for 500 miles. It's hard for us to race like that. It's hard to ask 43 human beings to be perfect for three and a half hours. It's just tough racing. I wish there was another way to create great racing here and at Daytona, but right now this is what we have to work with so we're gonna make the most of it. Yes, Talladega has been feast or famine for me. We're gonna be running good and be in the top five or 10. We're either gonna try to make it to the end or we're gonna end up doing something spectacular. Hopefully my Evil Knievel days are behind us and we've got brighter days ahead. I really would like to finish sunny side up. It's a pretty race car and there's a nice paint job on it. I really don't want to scuff it up too bad tomorrow."
THE WIND GOT STRONGER AFTER YOU RAN. DID YOU BREATHE EASIER AT THAT POINT?
"I think you're right. The couple poles that we've had here, we all went out early in the lineup. We're drawing good down here. I knew when I went out early it was an advantage because my rear end gear and stuff was gonna be a little bit warmer maybe than everybody else's of the first 10-15 guys. That's a little bit of an advantage and the wind always gets up a little bit here at Talladega in the afternoons and it was really windy this afternoon, so those guys were gonna have to lay down a really good lap as windy as it was to get close to us. When I kept feeling the wind getting up, Robert and I were talking about it on top of the trailer which way it was actually blowing. It was more of a head wind for those guys than it was for me. It was more blowing across when I ran, so everything fell into place for us today. The stars lined up and we were able to take advantage of it."
ARE YOU ABLE TO FORGIVE AND FORGET WHAT HAPPENED HERE LAST TIME WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON?
"Yeah, I was very, very disappointed last year in October. I think I had the best chance of winning a restrictor plate race I'd ever had. I had an unbelievable race car. As a driver you don't ever know. What do you do? Do you drive around in the back for 400 miles? Do you try to lead laps? Everybody has a different mentality of what they want to do and my car was so fast last year I thought if I was leading the race I was in the safest spot. I never thought I'd get wrecked leading the race the way I did. Jimmie and I had a talk about it. Do I hold a grudge with him? No, because I have to race against him every week. He's a great guy and a friend of mine, but I was frustrated at the moment on what happened and the way we raced each other that time. You forgive and forget. He might be my best friend tomorrow and maybe push me for a while. You never know what happens. My mentality tomorrow, because I think my car is as good this weekend as it was last October, is to try to stay up front and stay out of trouble and hopefully keep the wrecks behind us."
HOW DO YOU PLAN TO USE THE FRONT BUMPER?
"I tell you what guys, it's not night and day between the front bumper we had at Daytona and the front bumper we have now. It's pretty stiff, the front bumper we have now. I think you're gonna see guys maybe be a little bit more careful maybe the first 50 percent of the race, and then I think when it gets down towards the end it's gonna be the same old bump drafting that you've always seen. I tested mine out a little bit during practice yesterday. I did a little bump drafting with the 66 car just to see. I knew how hard I hit him and how far I pushed him and then I could get out and look at it and my fabricators could look at it, so now I know mentally in the back of my mind how much I can use mine without pushing it in or things like that. I think a couple of drivers did that, but I think you're gonna see the same old bump drafting and everything you see when it gets down to time to go. That's just the way this type of racing is."
HOW DO YOU TRY TO NOT GET TOO EXCITED THIS WEEK WHEN YOU HAVEN'T HAD THAT ALL THE TIME?
"It's weird for me to say this with the bad wrecks we've had at Talladega, but I'm excited to be here and you know why? This is my best chance to date to win a race. We have a great, great car and I think it's gonna drive good. You throw out Daytona, the other restrictor plate race, this is my best chance to win a race -- this weekend -- that we've had. So I'm excited about this weekend. I think we can get it done. Even if we don't win, if we run in the top 10, top 15, I think we can lead some laps and be impressive and run in the top 10 all day, and just have a good showing tomorrow. We need that right now as a company. We need that. The problems we had at Texas. The problems we had at Phoenix. Everybody was a little down because we've fallen out of the top 10 in points, but to get back on the pole today -- we knew we were gonna be fast. This is a good shot in the arm for our company and for our team. Not only ourselves, but the 88 needs it to to kind of get back going and get the ball back rolling. We're going to some tracks I really like. Darlington is coming up. Charlotte is coming up. Pocono -- some places I really like racing at -- so maybe this is a good momentum builder that we can build off of and that's the way we're gonna try use it."
WILL IT BE AGONIZING FOR YOU TO WATCH DALE MAKE THIS DECISION OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS ON WHETHER TO JOIN MICHAEL WALTRIP OR NOT?
"That's probably gonna be tough on the teams involved and probably Dale to race. He's trying to make a decision right now on what he wants to do. Me as a teammate and me as a friend will be there if he needs to ask me what my suggestions are or any opinions like that, I'll do that as a friend. But I've got to focus on what we're doing in the 38 car. Robert and Doug and I have been talking about our future together and I have been frustrated with the way we've been racing this year as far as our finishes, but I'm not frustrated on what I see as far as which way the team is going. We've got a lot of new engineers and stuff on our team that are starting to work together more. We've got two new crew chiefs. Tommy is from Long Island and I'm from Virginia. It took us a little while to understand each other, so we're working on it, but I love the future of this company. When I said in that deal that I was frustrated, I was frustrated with our finishes. We've kind of just been middle of the pack and we don't want to be that. We want to be a little bit better. As far as what's going on with Dale and them, I want to be there as a friend and as a teammate on anything that he needs me to do, but I know as a race car driver and in my own life and my own little Elliott Sadler bubble, I have to do my best job with the 38 car and try to stay focused and do the things we need to do to be competitive. That's the fairest thing I can do as a driver and an employee for Robert Yates Racing."
YOU WERE IN THE RUMOR MILL TOO. ARE YOU STAYING?
"A couple guys asked me about that yesterday and this is my opinion of it. I have a job as a race car driver to go out and race and do the best job I can every week. You guys have a job as media to report and dig up and get all the information you can on the sport and deliver it to fans and customers. Somebody wrote this week that I was maybe moving on and I think they took what I said about being frustrated and kind of added to it and added to it that I might go somewhere else. I am perfectly happy where I'm at at Robert Yates Racing. I think we've got a great future together. I think I've put too much time into this team and into this effort to just try to decide to do something else at this time of my career. Right now at my age and my experience at this level, I'm really happy with the team I'm at. I've got a great sponsor with M&M's, who I think will be with us until the day I decide to retire. I've got a great relationship with those guys and I just like where I'm at. I love racing for Robert. I love his intensity. I love racing for Doug and that's just where I need to be I think. Somebody asked me yesterday if I get mad about it or take it personal when people try to report stuff on you. No, you guys have a job to do just like I do. It's the way the world works. It's cool. If it comes out to be true, you guys are like heroes. If it doesn't, well, we'll try again next week."
HOW DO YOU THINK YATES IS STANDING COMPARED TO ROUSH AND HENDRICK?
"I think the advantage Roush Racing has right now and Hendrick has right now is Roush has five shots at it every week -- different type of setups, different type of things technology-wise. Hendrick has four shots at it every week. We only have two shots at it. Technology is changing each and every day in this sport. There are more engineers involved in this sport now than we've ever had. I think five years from now the crew chiefs in this sport are gonna be like engineers -- they're gonna be like Formula One guys. When you get more chances at a track and more chances at a setup and more chances to make changes to your team to make them better, I think you're gonna have better success. Right now Roush and Hendrick are setting an example that you better have at least a three-car team and probably a four-car team if you want to try to win championships and be good in those areas. We know that at Robert Yates Racing. We're working hard to maybe try to get a third team going. NASCAR has told us that the limit is four teams, so maybe one day we'll have four teams, but I think you're gonna have to be in that area of having that many shots at it a week. The old saying, 'Two minds are better than one,' that stands true for a lot of things."
HAS JUNIOR'S RUN SLOWED DOWN OR IS HE STILL THE MEASURING STICK AT THESE TRACKS?
"I think he is unbelievable as a driver here. I think what has happened is that other companies have caught up to DEI. Remember this now, DEI was the first company to go ahead and hire their own restrictor plate motor guys that worked on just restrictor plate motors all the time. They did their own chassis and bodies and stuff all the time year round. They were the first ones, so they kind of got a jump start on everybody. That was a vision by Big E, so now other companies are catching up. Hendrick cars have been very dominant lately on restrictor plate races. We've done good with some poles and qualifying good and with Dale winning here last year, so I think as far as company wise and chassis wise and stuff, we have caught up to DEI. We're on more of a level playing field than we've ever been, but I still think and I think I'm one of the other 42 drivers who know that to win here on Sunday you've got to know where the 8 car is at. You're gonna have to know what line he's in -- he and the 24 are gonna be the two guys you better keep an eye on all day long."
DO YOU FEEL YOU'RE BETTER FROM A TEAM STANDPOINT NOW THAN A YEAR AGO?
"I don't think we're where we need to be as a team right now. I don't think we've hit up on the stuff like Gibbs has, like Childress has, Hendrick and Roush. Those teams right there are very, very strong right now. I don't think we're as good as those guys right now. We know we've got some work to do. I think we're getting close. Tommy and Slugger have brought some great ideas to this organization, but it just takes time. It takes time to get all these things implemented. There are only so many days in a week and with these new testing schedules, you kind of really have to test a little bit when you get to the track on Friday, so we're playing catch-up right now. It's hard to compare it off of last year at this time because I think the racing game setup wise and technology wise has leapfrogged big time, more in the last 18 months than it has the last five years and we have not gotten up to that level where we need to be yet. Are we gonna get there? Yes. Is it gonna take time? Yes. I think we're gonna hit around the end of May, around June and July is when I think our company is gonna be where we need to be to be successful honestly."