Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, has already had a successful Speedweeks after earning the outside pole in qualifying and winning his Gatorade 125 qualifying race. Sadler spoke about his start and what's he's expecting in...
Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, has already had a successful Speedweeks after earning the outside pole in qualifying and winning his Gatorade 125 qualifying race. Sadler spoke about his start and what's he's expecting in Sunday's Daytona 500.
ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus
YOU SEEM TO LIKE THE RULE CHANGES WHILE OTHERS DIDN'T. WHY?
"You can complain all you want, but I don't think it's gonna get you anything. Some of the guys are complaining about the tires and this, that and the other, but Goodyear has changed the tires a bunch so you can't come down here with the same setup that you had last year and expect everything to go normal. You've got to change and adapt with the times and the tires that Goodyear brings and the rules. I think my crew chief and my team has done that very well, so I don't need to complain about anything. Everything is going good for us, but I think we're changing with everything so it's making it easy for us."
IS IT HARDER OR EASIER TO RUN UP FRONT IN THESE RACES?
"It's easier to run second, third, fourth or fifth because you're just kind of following the guy in front of you. When you're leading, you're looking more in the rearview mirror than you are of where you're going. Yesterday was a new experience for me, having to hold somebody off for that amount of time. They were good drafters too, like Sterling and Harvick and Jimmie and those guys, because they've got so much experience at it. It was very hard and very tough. Those guys were dragging their brakes down the back straightaway to try to get a run on me on the front straightaway and I was trying to do the same thing. It sounds weird to try to let off in the lead, but you don't want to get such a big gap where they can kind of get the train fired up and come back at you. I learned a lot yesterday and I think that's why I said and meant that yesterday was probably the biggest and most emotional win in my career because we left pit lane out front and it was pretty much on my shoulders. I had to do what I had to do to try to keep those guys back and to do that for 20 laps was pretty emotional for me."
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR DRAFTING SKILLS NOW?
"I think so. I think this is three top-three finishes in the last six races here at Daytona, so I don't think that's all by luck. I think I've learned a lot from drafting and watching. I watch a lot of videotape - a bunch. I watched the Bud Shootout two or three times before my Twin 125 race yesterday to learn who did what, who is strong and where are they strong at. I'll do the same thing for Sunday. I'll watch a tape of the Twin 125s Sunday morning before the Daytona 500 to learn who was fast and who is not. You've just got to do that to know where you need to block and where the guys are making their moves at, and I think once I've learned that and learned how to do that and read those tapes - I've got a great teacher also in Dale Jarrett, who has been to Victory Lane many times here so, all in all, I've kind of gathered all the information and now I've just got to put it to use."
IS THIS THE BEST CAR YOU'VE EVER HAD HERE?
"I think so. I think it's in the top two. One of the cars I had here last year, the one we wrecked in practice and never even got to put it in the 500 was probably the best car I've ever had. This one came off the same exact jig that one did. They're built just alike and so far it's gotten the same results."
DO YOU HAVE TO BE PERFECT ON SUNDAY TO WIN THE RACE?
"Yes, I think you do because everybody brings their best stuff here. Everybody knows that. The pit crews are all fired up and everybody has had cabin fever all winter. You've got your best car, your best chassis, your best motor and you're on top of each other. It's just a three-hour chess game getting on and off pit road with no mistakes there and no mistakes on the track. One mistake or false move and you can be freight-trained and back to 30th where you have to start over again, so I think you have to be perfect to be successful in this race."
WHEN YOU GOT UP THIS MORNING WERE YOU THINKING ABOUT HOW GREAT YESTERDAY WAS OR ABOUT HOW EXCITED YOU ARE FOR SUNDAY?
"I can't wait for Sunday. I probably slept about and hour last night at the most. I stared at the ceiling all night running stuff all through my head with things I did wrong and things I did good; the excitement on everybody's faces; my family was here sharing it; M&M's first win in this sport. There are so many things that go through your head that you feel so proud about that I just didn't get any sleep last night. The first thing I have to do tonight is get some sleep. I'm going to bed early and gonna start getting my body rejuvenated for Sunday, but I just can't wait. That's the feeling I've got now. I want to start the race right now because we've got a great race car."
DO YOU THINK THE DEI CARS HAVE HAD PEOPLE PSYCHED OUT THE LAST TWO OR THREE YEARS?
"I don't think they've psyched anybody out. They're good. It's not that they're doing it with their mouths, they're showing us on the race track how good of a race team they are. They have made other teams, and we're one of them, hire full-time speedway people for bodies and motors and stuff like that. They've kind of set the bar. Are we at the level they're at? No, I don't think so. But is Robert Yates Racing catching up to them? Yes, we are, and I think we've shown that. Out of four trips to Victory Lane this week, three times there has been a Robert Yates race car in Victory Lane - the Bud Shootout, the outside pole and also one of the Twin 125s - so I think we're narrowing that gap, and I think we're getting closer to them. Hopefully, we'll be able to catch them and surpass them and start our own little deal."
ARE YOU SURPRISED EVERYTHING HAS COME TOGETHER SO QUICKLY?
"We've made a lot of changes to our race team. When I walked into the shop after Christmas, I almost had to do roll call because we've got a lot of new faces in there. Eddie D'Hondt has come in and done just a terrific job of rejuvenating this race team. We've got some great pit crews now. He changed those around and made those better. He brought a lot of experience in Mike Ford coming over from the 9 car and he's got a lot of great notes and has been very successful here lately. He and Todd Parrott have worked together so well in the past and our communication is better now than any team I've ever been a part of. Did we expect to come in here and be in Victory Lane this many times so far? No, we did not. Did we expect to be competitive and have people recognize that we've made a big difference from last year? I think we knew that was gonna happen. We've had some great tests at Las Vegas, too. We think we can go to Rockingham and Vegas and be strong and we're just sort of on a natural high right now. We're all pumped up and we feel like we've got a lot to show and a lot to prove and we're kind of eager to do that."
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus
IN THE SECOND TWIN 125 ON THURSDAY THE CARS SEPARATED INTO GROUPS RATHER QUICKLY. DO YOU THINK THAT COULD HAPPEN ON SUNDAY, TOO?
"I don't know. It's a handling issue right now, and the guys that have their front ends connected to the race track are the guys that generally can get out front. I think what we saw the other day is I think all the cars are fairly equal on race speed, but some of the guys are having to breathe the throttle earlier than other guys, and that's the reason you're seeing the packs break up."
WHEN YOU'RE RUNNING IN A PACK HERE, DOES THE CAR HANDLE DIFFERENTLY WHEN IT'S IN A SMALLER PACK?
"A smaller pack that's staying in line, you have a tendency to have cleaner air, more like conditions are when you're running by yourself. When you get guys running side-by-side and you get that big hole in the air, say you're in the back of the pack, the air is so disturbed that there's not a lot of air pressure pushing your car into the track. So, generally what happens, whatever kind of problem you've got, in this case this weekend most guys are losing the front end of their cars, when you're back in that turbulence, that dirty air, what happens is if you're losing the front end it just gets worse. If you're out front in clean air, it's not as bad. If you're in a smaller pack, it's not as bad. The bottom line is five guys can go faster than 40."
Ford drivers Jeff Burton and Elliott Sadler both talked about strategy following Friday's first practice session. Sadler decided not to participate in the second practice session.
JEFF BURTON -- No. 99 NBA All-Star game on TNT Taurus
WHY DID THE CARS BREAK INTO SMALLER PACKS SO QUICKLY IN YESTERDAY'S RACE, AND DO YOU THINK THAT COULD HAPPEN AGAIN ON SUNDAY?
"I think a lot of it depends on the weather. This race track is very slick, the asphalt doesn't have a lot of grip in it, so when it gets hot it gets real slick. Yesterday was a mid-80s day, very sunny, and this track gets slick when you have those conditions. These tires are designed to fall off a lot, and we have a race track that's old, and those two conditions create a situation where you slide around a lot. That's why we saw what we saw yesterday."
DOES THE CAR HANDLE DIFFERENTLY WHEN IT'S RUNNING WITH FIVE OR SIX OTHER CARS AS OPPOSED TO A BIGGER PACK?
"Yeah. The more air that you're in, the worse it handles. So, the more cars you're with, the harder it is to get your car to do what you want it to do because you don't have as much air pushing down on your car. Being behind the pack is a bad place to be, being in the front of the pack is a good place to be, and being in the middle of the pack is not a good place to be, so you really want to be in the front and your really want to be single file. That's when your car drives the best. When you're behind a group of cars doubled up, you don't have much air on your car and that's when it drives the worse. So, that's why you see people running different grooves, as much as anything, is they don't want to run behind the car that's in front of them, even if he's in the fastest groove, because they're going to have to lift to get out of the gas to get slowed down a lot. They're better off running the top, if that guy's on the bottom, and if he's on top, you're better off running the bottom because you have all the air helping your car."
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU CAN DO WHEN YOU'RE INA PACK, BUT YOU'RE NOT WHERE YOU WANT TO BE IN THAT PACK?
"You just have to be patient and wait for it to come. You have to take advantage of holes when they're there. When you get the opportunity to find a hole and take it, you got to take it - and then you need to keep it. Track position is real important. But you have to be careful how you get it. You have to be patient and wait for it to come - and when it's there, you got to grab it, but you can't try to make it happen. It really just requires a lot of patience." SO,
YOU'RE LOOKING TO RUN WITH CARS THAT ARE HANDLING SIMILAR TO YOURS?
"You're not able to be that selective. You have to run with the cars that you're running with. You just don't have the options that say, 'Okay, I want to run with that car because it helps my car.' You may be able to do that for a few minutes, but eventually you get separated. Restrictor-plate racing just requires a lot of patience. And even when there's a day where you got restrictor plates, you're not handling well, then you drive the car a lot more with your arms and your butt. When you're out there and your car is handling well and you're just in there with a big group of cars, you end up driving with your head, and just waiting for the stuff to break apart so you can make a move when you need to make one."
ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus
"We think we got what we got, and I think yesterday was the best test session we could do and we don't want to take any chances. Track position is very, very important, and we don't want to get caught up in a wreck and have to go to a backup with no practice. So, we're just changing our motors, giving the guys plenty of time to get the motor in there and get it hooked like it needs to be hooked up. We'll run it tomorrow and make the final adjustments on it, Doug and Robert on the race motor and everybody.As far as the chassis goes, we're great, so I really don't want to mess with it."