Atlanta II: Ford - Elliott Sadler interview

Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, will start sixth in tomorrow's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He has been the top-qualifying Ford driver in 13 races so far this season, and has 16 top-10 starts -- including...

Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, will start sixth in tomorrow's Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He has been the top-qualifying Ford driver in 13 races so far this season, and has 16 top-10 starts -- including the first two poles of his career. Between Saturday's practice sessions, Sadler talked about his success in qualifying in 2003, and his frustrating finishes in the last month.

ELLIOTT SADLER, No. 38 M&M's Taurus -- YOU WERE THE FIRST TO QUALIFY LAST NIGHT. DID YOU THINK YOUR TIME WOULD HOLD UP SO WELL?

"No, I did not, but I don't think anybody knew what to expect. The first time qualifying at night at Atlanta, going out the first car. The lap I ran, it seemed like nobody picked up the same speed like they would like we were qualifying at Lowe's Motor Speedway. So, it was kind of surprising that it stayed in the top six, and to be the fastest Ford again in qualifying, I was very, very happy about that, the whole team was. To go out first and have it end up as good as it did, the guys did a great job."

THAT'S 13 TIMES YOU'VE DRIVEN THE FASTEST-QUALIFYING FORD.

"That's exactly right, and that's something that we're very proud of. We'd like to have the finishes to go with it, of course, and I think we would if we'd have a little bit of luck, but to be able to do that week-in and week-out to be very competitive in qualifying trim means that when we leave the shop, the car's in really good shape, the guys have got it real close and all we've got to do is tweak it a little bit, and we've been pretty good. I'm very proud of how the cars are leaving the shop nowadays."

IF SOMEONE WOULD'VE TOLD YOU BEFORE THE SEASON STARTED THAT YOU'D HAVE 16 TOP-10 STARTS AND TWO POLES, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THOUGHT?

"Like I said, that's something this team takes a lot of pride in is on Friday make sure we get a good starting position. We know the motor room works their butts off to gives us the most horsepower every week, and going out on new tires you can use all the horsepower you can. This is a guy that had the most provisionals last year, so it's not like I just woke up and learned how to qualify last winter, I think the guys just really put a lot of preparation in the car at the shop. So, when we show up Friday morning, all we got to do is just a little bit of adjustment. We're hardly ever lost in left field. As soon as we show up, we're really close, and Todd and the guys get to tweak it and I think that's why we've been qualifying so good."

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF STARTING NEAR THE FRONT.

"It helps with pit positions, pit strategy, it takes a lot of that out of play that you might not have to use. You know as well as I do, clean air is the story of the week every single weekend that we race, and when you run up front or qualify up front, you're more likely to run in clean air than you would if you're in the back. And if you have a long green-flag run at the beginning, if you miss it a little bit, you have some kind of a safe zone until you can fix it so you won't get lapped. So, there are a lot of benefits for starting up front. I'm just glad I'm with these guys that really put a lot of emphasis on Fridays. It makes it a lot of fun for me."

HOW HAVE YOU BEEN HOLDING UP THE LAST MONTH FOLLOWING A RUN OF BAD LUCK?

"It's been hard, probably the hardest stuff I've ever been through in a race car as far as mentally is concerned. It's not that we're wrecking ourselves every week, it's just stupid stuff happening, we're getting into other people's situations, and it's just been hard. To drive for Robert and Carolyn Yates, and as supportive as they have been to me, has been amazing. I can't ask to be in a better situation than that. Yes, it's been hard, but the guys are really bearing behind me to try to help me get through it."

IS IT MORE FRUSTRATING BECAUSE IN RACING SOMETIMES YOUR BAD LUCK IS A RESULT OF OTHERS' BAD LUCK?

"It's tough. The hardest part about being in a slump or the bad luck that we've been in has been showing up at the shop on Mondays or Tuesdays and looking at all those guys in the face, and you don't know what to say to them. Man, hey, we're running good, we just can't get this gorilla off our back. They got families to feed and things like that, and it makes it hard. So, that's probably the toughest part of being in a slump or the bad-luck situation that we've been in the last month is when I have to face my guys during the week and try to explain to them, 'Hey, we were running good, we just got caught up in somebody else's stuff.' Sometimes that's just not good enough."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Elliott Sadler