Bristol II: Sadler - Dodge Friday interview

ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) OPENING COMMENTS ABOUT BRISTOL "I think Bristol is what you make of it. If you come here with a good attitude and you really look forward to racing here and you want to attack the...

ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)

OPENING COMMENTS ABOUT BRISTOL "I think Bristol is what you make of it. If you come here with a good attitude and you really look forward to racing here and you want to attack the racetrack, I think you can have good finishes. It's by far my favorite racetrack on the circuit. I can't wait until I get here. Each and every time I have more adrenaline pumping here than any other track we race at. It's just so much fun, especially the night race. The attitude of the fans and the atmosphere just before the race starts. If that doesn't get you excited about racing nothing will. I'm looking forward to today's practice. I can't wait to get out there and run a little bit and see what we've got. Bristol is just a fun, fun racetrack. You don't hear aero push. You don't hear aerodynamics or traffic or anything like that. You just got out there and race really hard, do the best you can, make some good calls on pit road and a lot of good things can happen."

COMMENT ON YOUR NEW TEAM "I think we're very excited, I am, to go to a track like Michigan where my stats aren't the best in the world anyway as a driver and qualify on the front row, to struggle a little bit at the beginning of the race and work on it and work on it and to come back and use some pit strategy and get a top 10 was a great run for our Dodge Dealers team. It's pretty neat. I still have a lot to learn about the Dodge Charger. It does not react to the same adjustments I've been used to the last seven or eight years. I've got to learn that as a driver and kind of feel my way through that. It was a great run for us. To come out of the box and be able to do that and get the first top 10 I think was very important to me, and I think it was very important to those guys. We learned a lot of similarities between myself and Kasey Kahne the way we drive a racecar. It's going to help both of us in the future. Right now I think everybody is excited at Evernham Motorsports and we're looking forward to building a good foundation, building a good relationship with my guys and sponsors and moving along the rest of the year to get ready for the Daytona 500 next year."

IS THIS TEAM MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION FOR YOU? "The reason I went to Evernham Motorsports is not because of the way we ran last week at Michigan or the way we're supposed to run at Bristol. It's how we're going to run next year and the year after that when the car of tomorrow comes. I think this sport is going more toward engineering, more toward the Formula One style of racing where they put a package under the car and you as a driver have to adapt to it and go with it because that's the fastest way around the racetrack. I don't know if that's good for the sport or not, but that's definitely the way it's headed. When I went to his shop and visited and saw everything they had in place and how far ahead they're looking, how prepared they are already for next year, I really got excited about it. That was part of the deciding factor of why I wanted to go race for him. His energy, drive and focus from him being a racecar

driver to a crew chief for one of the best drivers we've ever had on the circuit, to a team owner and how far he's come in a short time. All he wants is a trophy. He wants that Cup one way or another, and I think he'll do whatever he can to make that happen. That's all we talked about the whole time. We didn't talk about any nonsense stuff, nothing that wasn't involved around the racetrack. Our discussions were 'this is what we're going to do to make our team better. This is what we're going to do to prepare for the car of tomorrow. This is what we're doing for three years down the road. This is the way the sport's going.' I said 'wow, this is where I want to be.' That was the deciding factor of why I chose to go to his place and race for him."

HOW HAS THE CHASE CHANGED RACING? "I think The Chase has definitely changed NASCAR. It's not a 36-race season anymore. It's a 26-race season with a playoff. If you don't run good in those 26 races, I think teams are more susceptible to making changes now, whether it's crew chief changes, driver changes, swapping teams back and forth within your own teams. Owner and drivers and crews and stuff will do anything now to make that Chase. That's what it's all about. Sponsors want to be in it. We want to be in it. It's a very prestigious part of our sport to be a part of it. I think you're going to see this more and more as we go along, too. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. I think three or four years from now people are going to be switching teams in midseason if they're already out of The Chase. They're going to be building on next year. You cannot afford to start with a new team, and this is my opinion, in the Daytona 500 and work with each other in the first six or seven races and try to find out each other's communication and what's too loose for a driver and what's too tight for a driver. You cannot afford to give up those first six or seven races as a team because you only have 19 or 20 left to make The Chase. You can't give up 200 or 300 points learning each other, and that's why teams are making changes now. I think that's why Robert Yates wanted to get David in the car and give him some seat time so they can hit the blocks running next year. That's why it's worked out for me to go to Ray's this year to learn the communication and go from there and move on to next year. It's just a win-win situation, and I think you're going to see more of that in the future as the sport moves on."

WHAT'S THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE AT EVERNHAM'S? "We want to run good, period. If I can come in here and get immediate good results that's good for Elliott Sadler, for my morale and confidence for the team's morale and confidence to come out of the box running good. That's very important for me. I think it's very important for Ray also. He wants to get the 19 back in the top 35 in owner's points. We have a lot of great partners. UAW had a pile of folks at the race in Michigan last week. It was good to do good in front of those people. That's important. We need to get the ball rolling and get morale up, and the best way to do that is to run good. As far as management stuff, I don't get into management. I don't have a degree. I'm not a carpet guy. I'd rather stay back in the shop. As a driver I like seeing preparation for the future, and I see a lot of it at Evernham's."

COMMENT ON RAY EVERNHAM "I think he's focused as a car owner. I think he told me he's missed three Cup races since 1993 as a crew chief and an owner -- three. Go find somebody else in the garage who's only missed three races in that period of time. I haven't seen Joe Gibbs at the track lately. He's probably coaching the Washington Redskins. Does this mean he's not a good Nextel Cup owner? Of course not. He's got other things to do, too. That's why you appoint people under you to do things. That's why you have great people under you. Richard Childress loves to go hunting and fishing. Does this mean he doesn't want the 29 and 31 in The Chase? Of course not. He probably goes to bed every night with it on his mind. That's why you have people under you. This is not a one-man sport. I don't think so. We have 330 employees at Evernham's. I think he's very focused. He's been at the shop every time I've been there, but he's got a great group of guys under him to run this race team. I don't think you can penalize a guy for doing that. I don't understand some of this stuff that's been going on. I think it's been very one sided. Teresa Earnhardt, I haven't seen her here in a long time, but she's a great part of our sport. You have people under you that make decisions and run the team and keep it going from one race to the next. We have a lot of great owners in this sport, but they need to have the trust of the people under them. Every time I go to the shop he's been there. We go to lunch every day. His focus and drive to me have been amazing. If I can match it then we're going to have a good race team."

WILL WE SEE TRADES IN RACING? "That's funny, but I can see that happening. I can see drivers' contracts coming up where we'll give you a 26-race deal and if you make the Chase we'll give you a bonus and a 10-race extension. I can see stuff going on like that because there's so much pressure on us. We all know how much money is involved in this sport and how much money sponsors spend. They want results. I can see stuff happening. Everybody is coming under contract, not just drivers anymore. Spotters have contracts, everybody going over the wall, engine guys, engine development guys. Our whole sport is going to be one big contract before it's all over with because we all have access to the same parts. We can all go to whoever we buy parts from in Charlotte and buy whatever we want to buy. It's all about people. If you keep people happy for one and motivated and under contract you'll have something to build on. That's the good and bad of our sport in Charlotte. One, all of our help is there. Two, they can switch and go to what ever team they want and not ever have to move their families. It makes it kinda tough some times, but I can see a lot of trading coming up in the future. Next year you've got 50 fulltime teams, funded teams for 43 spots. Halfway through the season there's going to be some unhappy campers going to Daytona in July. If they're not going to make The Chase or make the top 35 in points, you're going to see this happening every year. I think it's going to be a big part of our sport."

HOW DO YOU COMMUNICATE WITH RAY? "We've had some good meetings so far. A lot of them have been over the phone. Some of them have been at his shop. He's always so busy, and he's got a lot of people working under him. I try not to bother him when he's at the shop. Usually it's on the phone after working hours and we can chit chat a little bit when he doesn't have a hundred other things going on. I try to bring him some good ideas I've been used to and he's tried to distribute some of the things he's doing to get ready for the future. That's mostly how our meetings are. We talk a little bit, and it's always about racing. It's never been about anything else. It's about how we could have made our cars a little bit better at Michigan to getting ready for California. Everything has been about setups and trying to get us in the top 35 and trying to get Kasey Kahne in the top 10. We've got three races left to do it for Kasey. Everything has been what do we have to do for our race teams? Whether Scott has to do something else, whether Elliott's got to do something new? Whatever we've got to do for the 9 so he can get in The Chase. Ray's had a car in The Chase the first two years, and he wants to make it three years in a row. Every conversation we've had has been about performance."

WHAT WILL YOU WORK ON THE REST OF THE SEASON? "When you work for a race team for a certain period of time, you try to make the same adjustments every time. You kind of get in a rut. I was in a rut as a driver. I wanted to do the track bar every time or the wedge every time or whatever it might be. Now over here, these guys do things a little differently. The Charger likes different things. Me as a driver, I have to adjust with the times and the way the team does things. I've got to use the next 13 races to reteach myself. It's like learning a new language. I have to reteach myself different ways to fix the racecar, different ways to look at things. We're all trying to get to the same points, but I've got to go a different way now. That's what we have to learn the next 13 races, different ways to fix the racecars. Josh (Brown) my crew chief has done an unbelievable job getting the cars ready. It's his first time as a crew chief, first time working with me, so we've got to work on that part of it, too. Last week I over adjusted the car too much at Michigan and we had to go back. It took pretty much 70 percent of the race to do that, so little areas like that are what we need to be working on."

HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO GET IN THIS CAR THIS SEASON? "We never talked about it. It never came up, getting in the car this year. I brought that up to somebody last week at Michigan. If this had been all planned at least I would have had my name on my uniform. This was very spur of the moment. All we were talking about was next year, things we needed to get ready for the Daytona 500. The way it all popped up and when Doug came to me and wanted to put David in the car it seemed like the best thing Robert Yates Racing could do. From the first day when we decided to split up I told them I wanted to do what they wanted to do. When they came to me and said this is what we need to do, then that freed me up to do what I needed to do, but it all happened within three days. It was not a pre-planned thing."

WHAT WAS THE REACTION OF YOUR TEAM? "They changed the crew chief and they changed some other people on the team. I think what I told them to do was show up each week like the 9 has been and let me learn how to drive a racecar all over again if that's what it takes or let me adapt to whatever these guys are doing and that's what we did. We got close. Kasey got fourth and I got 10th. I've still got a little work to do to catch him, but that's pretty much the attitude we've got going into each race now. Taking what has been successful for those guys and let me figure out how to drive it. I'm not an old dog, but this is my eighth year. They say it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but that's what I've got to do. I've got to learn new tricks, new ways of driving the car. Everybody doesn't drive the car the same, but I've got to move in his direction to help this company. That's what I want to do."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kasey Kahne , Robert Yates , Elliott Sadler
Teams Yates Racing