Motorcraft Taurus driver Elliott Sadler improved by nearly 3 mph from practice to qualifying yesterday and will start on the outside of the second row in tomorrow's Pepsi 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The Wood Brothers enjoyed tremendous...
Motorcraft Taurus driver Elliott Sadler improved by nearly 3 mph from practice to qualifying yesterday and will start on the outside of the second row in tomorrow's Pepsi 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The Wood Brothers enjoyed tremendous success at MIS a quarter of a century ago, reaching victory lane 10 times between 1969 and '78. The Woods' 11th-and final-victory at Michigan was 10 years ago-which also happened to be the very first victory of Dale Jarrett's storied career. The 1999 points champion and Eddie and Len Wood remember that win in '91. The Woods also talk about the team's wins before it, and what Sadler's qualifying effort means to the team. Sadler, too, talks about yesterday's qualifying effort, which ties his best-ever start in Winston Cup.
DALE JARRETT -88- UPS Taurus
YOUR FIRST WIN IN WINSTON CUP WAS HERE WITH THE WOOD BROTHERS IN 1991. A LOT HAS HAPPENED IN YOUR CAREER SINCE THEN. DOES IT SEEM LIKE A LONG TIME AGO?
"It seems like quite a while ago, a lot has happened since then. To go back over the things that have taken place it doesn't take you long to realize that a lot has transpired in a 10-year period. It hasn't been so long ago that I don't remember most of the details of it and just how a special a day it really was."
WHAT CHANGES AFTER THAT FIRST VICTORY, FOR THE DRIVER AND HOW THE DRIVER IS PERCEIVED WITHIN THE GARAGE?
"I think it's more of what it does for the driver and for the team, more than how the others perceive the driver. Yeah, maybe you're looked at a little differently because you've shown you can handle that type of situation, but I think as much as anything is the confidence that it gives the driver, 'Okay, I can do this. I thought that I could, but now I know that I can.' And, also the team. You talked a lot about it, 'We can win,' but until you go do that then you really don't know."
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST THING YOU REMEMBER FROM THAT VERY FIRST VICTORY?
"The look on Eddie and Len and Leonard Wood's face in victory lane. That, as much as anything. The other special thing about it was Davey Allison taking the time to come to victory lane to congratulate me."
"In 1991 we had Dale Jarrett, and we came to Michigan with a new engine package - that was the second week we had Yates heads - and that kind of helped us turn things around. I think the way the race was going to work out we were going to stop for gas and hope to finish top-five - it looked like we might finish fourth or something. And, we had are best set of tires on, and with about 15 to go the caution fell and everybody stopped and Eddie talked to him about the fact that he was running the fastest he had been all day and tires were still good so we just got a splash of gas and went back out. Everybody else changed four tires. We got up front and we were thinking, 'Okay, how long can we hold 'em off?' And it kind of got jammed up on the re-start behind us and I think Mark Martin was second and Davey Allison was third and we just kind of pulled away, and there here comes Davey. He had been dominant all day, but once he got to us he could get beside us but he couldn't clear us. They ran side-by-side for the last couple of laps - actually I think Davey led the white-flag lap by a little bit and we came by the next lap and beat him by a foot or so. That was pretty special to get Dale's first win with us."
BEFORE THAT, THIS TEAM WON 10 RACES AT THIS TRACK BETWEEN 1969 AND 1978. WAS THERE A COMMON THREAD TO THOSE VICTORIES?
"That was during the Pearson years. We were dominant on speedways, tracks that were a mile and a half or bigger. Back then, Pearson was very good. He was good anywhere you took him, but he was extra good on those tracks. He seemed to adapt to this track, and we did, too. Hopefully, we can do it again Sunday."
CAN ANY OF YOUR SUCCESS THEN TRANSLATE TO NOW, OR HAS THE SPORT CHANGED TOO MUCH?
"Back then, say in the early '70s, there were like six cars you had to beat on a weekly basis. You look at the rundown at the end of the year, three cars - us, Junior and Richard Petty - would win the majority of the races, but there'd be Benny Parsons here and there, Bud Moore would win here and there. It was competitive, but it seems to be 10 times more competitive now. On any given day anybody can run up front. WHAT
DOES ELLIOTT SADLER'S QUALIFYING EFFORT YESTERDAY, DURING A SEASON THAT QUALIFYING HASN'T BEEN THE TEAM'S STRONG SUIT, MEAN TO THIS TEAM?
"This is like a late-summer boost when we need it. We had Daytona, we finished third, and that was like a summer boost for us. We won the race at Bristol, and that was a boost for the team, a boost for Elliott's confidence. And I think coming out of Daytona where we finished third, we felt like we won the race that night. We were hoping that things would pick up from Daytona on, but we struggled a little bit at Chicago and then we got involved in wrecks in the next four weeks. The first three weeks were within the first five laps of the race and then last week we made it at least to two to go before we got caught in an accident. Ultimately, this will be a boost and we can turn it around and make late-summer charge and get back in the top 15 in points. We've actually been in the top 10 and one point this year. Our goal was to win a race and finish in the top 15 in points. Right now, we're 17th and 15th is not out of sight."
EDDIE WOOD, co-owner-21-Motorcraft Taurus-IN 1991
THE WOOD BROTHERS SCORED THE TEAM'S 11TH VICTORY AT MICHIGAN - AND DALE JARRETT'S FIRST IN WINSTON CUP. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THAT WIN NOW?
"It doesn't really seem like it was 10 years ago, but it was. That was just after the introduction of the Yates heads, and that kind of took everybody to a new level in horsepower. And we had been struggling for a while with that, and I guess sometimes if you struggle and you work on every area that you can get your hands on then, all of a sudden, you put some more power to it, all of a sudden you've got a good package, and that's kind of what happened. That day, all during the day, it seemed like we had a good car. We were in the front to the middle all day. Every set of tires we put on would seem to get a little better. We had one set of tires that we had on during practice - and this was prior to radials and during that era you could run tires a lot of laps here - and we put 'em on and it was headed to the front. It was passing cars inside, outside, boom, boom, boom. There was a caution and we just got fuel because that was the best set of tires we had on all day, so we left it, and we went out there and won the race. It was a deal where we made the right call at the end not to change tires. Davey changed tires, his car pushed. Fortunately, we had a set of tires we were comfortable with, and Dale did the rest."
WHAT ABOUT THE 1970S HERE?
"We won a lot of races here with David Pearson, two with Cale Yarborough. Our way of doing things, historically, we've always run better on the bigger race tracks - even now. I don't know what that is. We've had different drivers, different motors, different cars, different people, different everything, but I guess the way we eat, breath, sleep or something, our way of doing things suits a track like Michigan, Charlotte, Fontana, places like that. We could always come here, unload and run well. We just never had a problem with any part of it. Just the combination we were bringing, the driver, the crew chief, the motors, everything just really worked."
WERE THINGS SO GOOD THAT IT GOT TO A POINT THAT YOU CAME TO MICHIGAN EXPECTING TO WIN, OR DOES IT NEVER GET TO THAT POINT?
"You never get there. If you ever do, it'll turn around and bite you. It'll teach you a lesson. Racing has a way of leveling things. You can think something long enough, and racing has a way to either make it happen or make a liar out of you. Racing's got a way of equaling things. I don't know how it does it, but it does. I guess when you put that much machinery together with a group of smart people, things, crazy things can happen. Odd things can happen. For us, it just always worked up here. Through those years, we didn't have a lot of race cars. You only had three or four cars, if that, and you'd always bring the same car back. It may have a different body on it, but it would be the same race car. Maybe that's part of it."
WHAT DOES YESTERDAY'S QUALIFYING EFFORT MEAN TO YOU?
"We came up here with a totally different package in every area. Every area. And it was almost like 'Okay, let's change everything we're doing.' We kept picking at it, this area, this area, and never could get any better in qualifying. Now, we threw all of that away and started over, and it seems to have worked. We won't know how it's going to work until we open the thing up and run Happy Hour, and, of course, tomorrow. But, the basic combination we're doing now is the very, very, simple, almost box stock stuff like you would go buy. Sometimes you get so far away from center the wheels don't roll. You've got to stay in the middle. When you get to where things aren't working, say, 'Let's stop,' start over and go again. That's basically what we've done. Hopefully, it'll carry on. We've got a lot of good races for us coming up. Hopefully, we can turn to corner now and get back to where we were early in the season."
-21- Motorcraft Taurus-ON HIS QUALIFYING LAP.
"I think it felt pretty good. We have struggled this year in qualifying and we know that's our weakest point and that's why we put so much emphasis on it at the shop and really tried a lot of different things. Being a single-car team it seems like we're just a little step behind on what's the latest and greatest with what everybody's doing with their tires and what these new tires are asking for, but maybe we've hit up on something and hopefully this will help us for the rest of the year."
WHAT DID THAT LAP MEAN TO YOU?
"It meant to me because this track has just been hard on us. My last three, four times I've been here it seems like we've blown tires or hit the wall or flipped. Man, all kinds of stuff going on. So, it meant alot to me to qualify this good. It's the best I've ever qualified here, in a Busch car or a Cup car. It felt great.