Ford - Burton optimistic in 2003

Two Ford drivers who feel like they have something to prove in 2003 are Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, and Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Citgo Taurus. Sadler has joined Robert Yates Racing after four years with the Wood ...

Two Ford drivers who feel like they have something to prove in 2003 are Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, and Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 99 Citgo Taurus. Sadler has joined Robert Yates Racing after four years with the Wood Brothers while Burton will begin his first full season with crew chief Paul Andrews, who was hired by the organization in September.

JEFF BURTON - No. 99 Citgo Taurus:

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK AT DAYTONA? "Daytona is a really special place. This is a place where everybody's dreams for the upcoming year are played out. Everybody that's come here believes they've made their team better. They believe they're coming into the year in a better position than they were last year and, of course, we feel the same way. We approach this race, obviously, wanting to come here and win, but we also approach it as a race that it's one of 36. We've worked real hard on our program. We believe we've got a car that's gonna race very well. We do believe, however, that we're gonna struggle a little bit in qualifying, but we think we've built a car that's really gonna race well and I'm looking forward to it."

WAS THIS A BUSIER WINTER THAN NORMAL FOR YOU? "For me, no. For our team, yes. I was busier, but I think everybody is busier. I wasn't busier for the same reasons I had been. We went and knocked out a tremendous amount of appearances and a tremendous amount of commercial shoots and those kind of things in November and December so we wouldn't have to deal with those during the year. My role in the race team is being adjusted because of Paul Andrews. I used to be much more of a day-to-day kind of guy that made a lot of calls on the race team than I am today, and that's the right thing to do. That's one of the reasons we did what we did was because we needed a new look at things and Paul has brought us a new look. From a competition standpoint, I've actually been less busy than I've ever been. That's allowed me to focus on some other things within the company and try to help, but it's also allowed me to focus on how I can be a better driver. That's my goal this year is to provide this team with the leadership and the commitment of being the guy that helps tell them what the car is doing wrong, not necessarily being the guy that orchestrates what this team is gonna do and what direction we're headed in because I think it's growing faster than the drivers can keep up with it."

YOU PUT A LOT OF TIME IN ON THE CHASSIS SIDE OF THINGS BEFORE. "I do enjoy it and, to be honest, I'm missing doing that and I'm not into it right now. I'm into sitting down with Paul and him explaining to me what it is that we're doing and me putting my two cents into it and saying, 'We need to think about this and we need to consider that.' But I'm much more in the process of figuring out how to play my role as a technically-oriented driver, but also not hamper the technical capabilities that we have. Sometimes with a driver you believe so hard and so much in what you're doing that you don't allow the engineering staff or allow people in the company that are there to help you to fully do their job. I'm still trying to feel my way through and decide how I can impact this team in a positive way other than just being a driver."

WHAT ABOUT THE FUEL CELL CHANGE? "I think it will certainly throw a new look at it. I think the 125s are gonna be affected greatly by it and the Daytona 500 will also. I didn't see the results from Talladega that a lot of other people saw. A lot of other people thought it really separated the field in a big way. The only time I saw the field separated was during pit stops. Of course, that is a period of time that we were separated and we weren't before. On the other hand, it didn't really accomplish what I think a lot of people thought it was gonna accomplish, but it's gonna change the race. Daytona is a handling race track. Now you're gonna be on pit road twice as many times as you had before, which means you're gonna be putting tires on more often than you had before. But you're gonna be putting two tires on and not four, so it's gonna change the complexion of the race and it's gonna change the strategy of the race without a doubt. The 125s are gonna be greatly changed by it. The more times you're on pit road, the more chance you have of getting caught with a caution and getting yourself a lap down. There are a lot of things that can happen by being on pit road more than you used to be."

WILL IT BE MORE EXCITING FOR THE FANS? "I don't know. You look at Talladega's race, at the end since some people could go further on fuel than others, it was less crowded with cars. Some people said it was less of an exciting race because of that and some people said it was more. Every fan has their own perception, but I think we really have to wait and see how it unfolds. I don't think any of us really knows what's gonna happen."

DOES THIS PUT MORE PRESSURE ON YOUR PIT CREWS? "It certainly puts more pressure on the pit crew because you're gonna be on pit road more often, however, you're never gonna be putting on four tires. Teams can put on two tires quicker than we can put fuel in, so it actually takes a little pressure off the tire changers under green-flag stops because they have a little more time. If they do make a mistake, it isn't gonna you because you're waiting on the fuel anyway."

HAS THE SPORT CHANGED TO THE POINT WHERE THE ENGINEERS TELL YOU WHAT'S GOING ON AND YOU HAVE TO ADAPT? "No, it's not that. It isn't that we're gonna let the engineers tell the driver what he needs on any one of our teams, but the engineers can point the team in a direction. Once you get to the race track, the only computer you have is the driver's butt. His butt tells the team what the car is doing, so the driver still has to be involved. I'm not saying that I'm totally getting away from it, but I can't be involved on a daily basis, on a minute-by-minute basis with our team and truly understanding what we're doing in the wind tunnel, truly understanding what we're doing with chassis simulation, truly understanding everything that we're doing. So when I start making decisions on the race car, I'm making decisions that are based on feeling and based on emotion sometimes rather than facts and good engineering. That's what I'm talking about. I'm still involved in it, but I'm just not the one making the final call all the time."

Ford - Sadler optimistic in 2003

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Elliott Sadler
Teams Yates Racing