Elliott Sadler --21-- Motorcraft Taurus (Qualified 2nd) Ricky Craven --32-- Tide Taurus (Qualified 3rd) Elliott Sadler and Ricky Craven press conference SADLER -- "This is the same car that we had at Texas, that we qualified second with, so ...
Elliott Sadler --21-- Motorcraft Taurus (Qualified 2nd)
Ricky Craven --32-- Tide Taurus (Qualified 3rd)
Elliott Sadler and Ricky Craven press conference
SADLER -- "This is the same car that we had at Texas, that we qualified second with, so that's the last time we raced it. This car is pretty good in qualifying and it's also the car we ran second with at Darlington. It's by far my favorite car at Wood Brother Racing and that's why we saved it for this weekend. We felt like we wanted to run very well with the U.S. Air Force paint scheme, being it's Memorial Day, and we had a good run. I'm proud of my guys, I'm really, really proud of them. I bottomed out a little bit in one and two and probably left a little bit on the race track. Man, getting beat by six-thousandths like we did and me never having a pole, I feel like I could throw up right now to be honest with you. Man, we've had such a long couple of weeks and I've really, really, really had a long day today, so a pole really would have picked my spirits up a lot."
CRAVEN -- "We had a little bit of a head start on Elliott because we had the same car from last week, which was a new car, and we used last week as a test. Of course we wanted to win the race, but it was such a great opportunity that if you were able to keep the car together and roll it back on the trailer at the end of the night, to be able to come here a week later and pick up where you left off and that's really what the team has done -- they picked up where we left off. We ran in the top five each of the three segments last week and I think the confidence coming in here is high because the car ran so well."
SADLER -- WHY WAS IT SUCH A LONG DAY TODAY ELLIOTT? "We had a pretty long day today in the garage just trying to get through some of this stuff that's been going on here lately in the news. We're just trying to get all of my release stuff straight. We're trying to get that done and over with so we can race. It's hard for me to sit in that race car every week not knowing what's gonna happen the next week coming up and we were trying to hash through some of that. It's just been a long, long day. It's probably the worst day I've ever had as a race car driver, but it really made me feel good to qualify that car second and come back in and see my smiling crew members who had to witness all this today. To actually see those guys smile for once was pretty cool, but when you get in that race car that's the ultimate equalizer. When you get in that thing, you don't worry about anything else. You just sit in that seat, you buckle that window net up and then you drive your race car as hard as you can. You put your heart into it and that's what I did today for almost 29 seconds. It was a tough day, but I'm glad with the way it ended so I might go celebrate a little bit now and get ready for Sunday."
CRAVEN -- WHY WERE SPEEDS SO FAST TONIGHT? "It's a mystery because the speeds coming off the trailer were unbelievable. They were really fast and really surprised everyone. The cars have a lot of grip. I think some of the teams and drivers that qualified tonight and didn't anticipate it are probably miserable right now because this was a night where you could leave something on the table. There was so much grip and I think some of evidence of that is I don't think anybody had any trouble. I don't think anybody got out of control and got tore up tonight, it just had a lot of grip so you saw some record speeds."
SADLER -- WHAT ABOUT ENGINES? "I don't know how much room it is for more. A good example is that if everybody showed up with these high dollar qualifying motors last week that's only supposed to run 90 laps and we didn't run but 29.40s last week I think was the fastest laps run all during last week's qualifying. This week we come back with motors that are a little bit more reserved, probably less horsepower, but we'll run 600 miles and we run a lot faster. But Ricky really hit on it, the track had a ton of grip in it today -- unbelievable. I was standing at the screen when Jimmie Johnson went out. He was the first person to practice today and he ran like a 29.40 right off the truck and we were like, 'Holy cow, where did that come from?' We were thinking 29.80s and .90s in practice were gonna be very good. I don't know if it had something to do with the Dash cars, the amount of rubber they had laid down today or yesterday or whenever they were on the track. I don't know, but for some reason today the track had so much more grip in it than anything we're used to. If it rained tonight and we had to try to do this all over again tomorrow night, we would not run this fast and I don't know why. Yes, the cars are getting better and faster, but we were just here last week. We're a half-a-second faster this week than last week. We haven't gotten the cars that much better, there's just so much grip in the track tonight and I have no reason why." WHEN DO YOU EXPECT THINGS TO CALM DOWN WITH YOUR SITUATION? "I don't know. I wish I could sit right here and tell you. I guess everybody's read about the deal that I made with the Wood Brothers about the contract stuff -- about the purse money and all that -- to just try to help those guys attract a better driver in their race car for next year and maybe try to speed it along a little bit. It's hard to race like this. I worry about a lot of things anyway, it's just my nature, and it's hurting me right now as a race car driver." IS THIS A WEEK TO WEEK THING? "No, this is about an hour by hour thing right now to me as far as me worrying about it. I just left another pretty strenuous meeting to come over here. Everything is fine, but I just want to get back to racing. That's what I know, that's the only thing I know, so I want to get some of this stuff behind us where we can go try to win us a race." HOW IS THE CHEMISTRY WITH PAT TRYSON? "Pat is being unbelievable. Him and I are working together so good the last few weeks and we're not letting any of this get in between us at all about me leaving and what's going on. When I talk to him it's 100 percent about that race car. He knows when I sit down in that race car and I put that window net up, it's 100 percent about that race car. It's just the stuff all of the other times. Like I said the other day on TV, you can analyze anything you want to analyze about us drivers, you can analyze anything you want to analyze about us teams, but some of us have right big hearts and you can't analyze that -- how much heart and soul we put in this thing week in and week out and we want to show everybody that we're not gonna be a lame duck race team. That kind of ticked me off when I heard that the other night on TV -- that we were gonna be a lame duck race team. That ain't gonna happen. I'm not a lame duck driver and that's not a lame duck driver. And Eddie Wood used an example the time Dale Jarrett was leaving to go to the 18. They found out in July and he won his first race in August at Michigan, so we're still gonna try to win us a race and a pole. We got doggone close tonight and we're still gonna try to win us a pole before this year is over with."
CRAVEN -- HOW SPECIAL IS IT TO RACE SUNDAY IN THIS RACE? "It's interesting. When we sat down in January -- Mike Beam, Roy McCauley and myself -- we had the schedule up and I circled the Coca Cola 600. It's always been my favorite race. The atmosphere here the last two weeks is unbelievable. It's comfortable, it's home, everybody gets to sleep in their own bed, but the atmosphere under the lights here is second to none. The Coca Cola 600 is a trophy I'm determined to take home sometime, hopefully this year, but it's great the way things are playing out for us. We had a quality test last week with this new car and then we qualified top five. The team seems to be gaining momentum and I'm lucky to have them. We've got a great pit crew now. The pit crew has come a long way in the 10 weeks and this is my race.
"Mike Beam circled the Southern 500 and I think Roy circled Dover because he's a Maryland boy. I'd love to win New Hampshire for obvious reasons, but this race -- this is it. The Coca Cola 600 is my favorite race."
SADLER -- ON THE 600 RACE. "The same thing he said. What Charlotte Motor Speedway does and what Humpy and those guys do to promote racing around this area is unbelievable. This is everybody's home. When they asked me my vote on The Winston, I've got to win a race to get back in the thing next year, but I'd vote on keeping it here. It's everybody's home. It's special to us. It's special to our crew members. All of their wives and kids can come out. This is home. This is everybody's home track. I know everybody was born and raised somewhere else, but everybody looks at this as their home track and I think it makes it special being a night race -- 600 miles. What Coca Cola does for this sport is pretty cool. I couldn't say it any better than Ricky did."
CRAVEN -- DO YOU THINK THIS RACE WILL EVER RIVAL THE INDY 500? "I think in terms of what we do, it does. It's part of Memorial Day weekend. For any motorhead, anyone that is related to racing, it's really not just the Indy 500. When you think in terms of Memorial Day weekend, you think of the Coca Cola 600 and the Indy 500. I also think that time is a quality and a premium and that's part of what built the Daytona 500 and that's part of what built Indy and that's part of what's building this race. The history of having one 600-mile race each year is significant."
WILL EXPERIENCE MAKE A DIFFERENCE THAT LAST 100 MILES SUNDAY? "I hope so. I've got to tell you, from my standpoint, I've got to ask you guys. When did I make the transition from young gun to old veteran because you guys did this to me this year. I've been introduced and I've been acknowledged as an old veteran and I'm struggling with that. You've got to come up with some definition of the middle aged group (laughing). Give me a different label. I think that the experience is a quality that I didn't understand three or four years ago and why should you. The one thing I've benefited from is the experience of not just as it relates to driving a race car, but as a person. I mean, think about it. I'm 35. Ooh, hell, I'll be 36 tomorrow, but five years ago things didn't make sense. The things I know today didn't make sense five years ago and I think we can all relate to that. I think that also exists on the race track, but you've got to give credit where credit is due. There are a group of youngsters that have bolted out of the gate here. Kurt and Elliott and Jimmie, Ryan, these guys are blistering. I don't know. I'm not concerned about it. I think it's gonna even out because I think that there's a balance in everything we do. I maintain that there's no substitute for experience. I think Ricky Rudd and Dale Jarrett will support me on that."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE ENGINE QUALITY? "I'm amazed at the quality that we've gotten this year. Yates is awesome -- the engines are awesome -- but what I'm really referring to is the fact that there is so much emphasis on the engines this year because of the new rule. Knock on wood, we haven't had any issues. Here we are, this is really the last hurdle if you think about it. I think across the board, statistically, the engines have been more reliable this year than ever and if we clear this hurdle, we can put it to rest. There was the issue at Daytona with the restrictor plate stuff and then Rockingham and Atlanta and Vegas, but this is the last hurdle -- 600 miles. Because of that, you can hear a lot of crew chiefs taking a conservative approach. You're not gonna see a lot of miles on the cars Saturday, I don't think."
SADLER -- "I agree with him on that. I don't think you're gonna see many miles run at all on Saturday. Everybody will probably run the first practice because it's gonna be more like it's gonna be at night, but I don't know about the second practice. You might run some just to try a gear out to break it in, but I don't think you're gonna see much because we don't know what's gonna happen. I think our motors are more reliable than ever, but 600 miles here is a lot."