Ford Daytona test - Elliott Sadler interview

Elliott Sadler has consistently been the fastest Ford during the first two days of testing at Daytona International Speedway. Sadler is making his debut as driver of the Robert Yates Racing No. 38 M&M's Taurus. He spoke about the test so far and...

Elliott Sadler has consistently been the fastest Ford during the first two days of testing at Daytona International Speedway. Sadler is making his debut as driver of the Robert Yates Racing No. 38 M&M's Taurus. He spoke about the test so far and his hopes for the 2003 season.

ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus:

HOW HAVE THINGS GONE SO FAR? "We're just very excited. The hard work and dedication this team has done this winter is really gonna show this season. We've all moved into a new shop. The 88 and 38 are now housed together and it's hasn't been like that in a while. Both teams have brand new crew chiefs, two young hungry guys so we're looking forward to that. I think things are looking well. We've had a lot of great tests, some good success so far, and we've come in here and unloaded very fast all three days. I think we were second-fastest this morning, so the guys have definitely done their homework and done their preparation and we're looking forward to a good start for the season."

HOW PUMPED UP ARE YOU AFTER FINISHING SECOND IN LAST YEAR'S DAYTONA 500? "I'm really pumped. That just proved to myself that I learned something about drafting and was able to run second. Of course I had a great race car last year in the race, it handled great, we had great pit stops and that's all part of the finishing order here at the Daytona 500. Here we are again this year with a very fast car and, hopefully, I can have some of the same luck and same success I had last year and get another great finish. Coming off a second-place finish here is just good for the morale of the driver. It's great for me, great for my confidence and all. I know from being in that position last year what it felt like, so, hopefully, if we're in that same position again this year that I'll know how to react to it and maybe better that position by one more spot."

YOUR TEAM SEEMS TO BE REALLY ENERGIZED. "I think there's a new attitude at that race shop from me going to meet with the guys last year to now. It seems like it's not even the same race team. I think moving the guys into the same shop was a big plus to them, but I think a lot of it goes to DJ and I being such great friends and us working together. When we went to test at Talladega a month ago we switched cars. I drove his car for awhile and he drove mine. The guys looked at us and said, 'That's the first time we've ever had two drivers do that.' So I think they kind of saw from our lead that we're gonna work together period. If I can't win the race, I want him to win the race. The guys have seen how good we're working together so they're kind of following suit. With Doug Yates coming in as general manager, he's really got everybody pumped up and corralled. We're like a marching band getting together again. Doug has really opened his arms to everybody and is giving suggestions to make sure that this team concept really works. So far we think it's working pretty good. I think everybody is kind of following Doug's lead and going off of that."

DO YOU FEEL MORE PRESSURE TO PERFORM WELL NOW BECAUSE OF THE VISIBILITY OF THIS RIDE? "I think so, but I think most of the pressure is coming from myself and my team. We know that we've got a championship caliber team with the resources these guys have come up with this winter. Yes, we have to perform, but the pressure isn't coming from anybody else other than myself. I think we can win the NASCAR Winston Cup championship. I know that probably sounds crazy to some people, but from what these guys have done and with the stuff I've seen in the shop and the motor shop, I think we've got just as good a chance as anybody. I think we're proving it from how good we've been testing this winter and the hard work that's going in it and we've come here and unloaded very fast here. A lot of preparation has been made this winter, so when we get here in February we can be ready to go. That just puts more pressure on me. I'm not one to point any fingers, I never have. Elliott Sadler has got to get the job done. I know I have the equipment, I know I have the motors and I know the dedication and the pride that this team has got. I just have to step in and do my job and I think we'll do very well."

WHAT'S THAT YATES HORSEPOWER LIKE? "I tell you, it's unbelievable. I've heard a lot about Robert Yates' engines just like everybody else has before I started driving them, but it's just great horsepower. It's great to work with everybody in that engine shop. Everyone I've met it's so much a source of pride for them to wear that logo and have their motors at the top of the list each and every week. After working with Doug here the last few days, he will attack that thing. They're very aggressive with their motors. They really want to get a lot of feedback from the driver, a lot more than what I'm used to, but that's something I like. They take a lot of pride in that deal and concentrate on it a lot and are very aggressive with it. I really like that, so, so far so good with the engine program. The engine shop is unbelievable. I've never seen so many smiling faces. It's kind of like, 'Wow, all of this for me?' It's pretty amazing they go through all of that to make sure I get around the track at a pretty good speed."

DO YOU JUST TRY TO FIND LITTLE GAINS OR BIG GAINS DURING A TEST LIKE THIS? "I think there are a lot of little things here. Aerodynamics plays such a big part on how fast we're gonna run here these three days. There are a lot of little bitty things. Aero is something I'm not that great in, but I think I have one of the best guys in that area and that's Todd Parrott. He's helping us and it's all the little things. Details, details, he keeps preaching to us the last few days to make sure that we get every little thing and pay attention to it. It's all the little things that make a car run. I wish there was one big bolt and nut that you could turn on a race car to make it go fast or slow, but it just doesn't happen like that. We have hundreds of little bolts and nuts and different types of things you can work on to move air away from that rear spoiler as much as you can. There is a lot of little stuff to work on, but I think we're bringing a lot of good data back from these couple of days. I know the 88 bunch has got another set of stuff they're gonna try next week when they come and we're gonna pick the two fastest cars. Then we'll come back for the 500 and see what we can do."

HOW MUCH HAVE YOU PICKED UP FROM TALLADEGA? "From the first lap we made at Talladega on this car that we're pretty good with today, they made a lot of changes to back at the shop after Talladega. We've come here and actually fine-tuned on it that much more. We've picked up a lot of speed from the first lap we made at Talladega so that makes me that much happier. I've never seen body guys just attack a car, not just at Talladega but back at the shop. They pretty much cut the whole thing up. We were pretty fast there, but we started over to come back here. They know how to use the data and the information they get from the computer really well. They're using it and using it to our advantage and that's showing here today. We feel like we've got a really fast race car and it's a lot different than when we started at Talladega. We've got another half-a-day left and we've still got some more things we want to try that should help us in racing trim. We've kind of gotten to the racing part now. We're trying to do stuff that will help us for that also this weekend, so we'll see what happens."

YOU DROVE REALLY AGGRESSIVELY IN LAST YEAR'S DAYTONA 500, DID YOU HAVE TO TRY AND DRIVER FASTER THAN YOUR COULD WOULD LET YOU AS THE YEAR WENT ON? WILL THE CARS THIS YEAR BE UP TO YOUR CAPABILITIES? "I don't know. I think to get to the Daytona 500 question, I watched a lot of videotapes of Daytona 500s before the race last year. Most people can watch the whole race because you can see what each driver is doing. We can only see what's going on around our car. I was way too conservative in a pack compared to a lot of guys that I saw that ran good. So last year for the Daytona 500 was by far the most aggressive restrictor plate race I've ever driven as far as blocking when you're supposed to or getting in line when maybe the hole is not as big as you thought it might be. Stuff like that - the things you have to do to run good sometimes other than putting yourself in jeopardy. So, as far as the Daytona 500, yes, it was probably the most aggressive restrictor plate race I've ever driven.

"Now I think I know how I need to do things and I'm gonna try to do that again this year with the same results. As far as the rest of the year, yes, we did get in some wrecks the middle part of the year but that was Elliott Sadler trying to do everything I could to get a win for the Wood Brothers, do everything I could to get a pole before I left. Sometimes I was driving over my head, trying to drive the car too loose for what I was capable of doing and that kind of got me in trouble at times. But I think that was from a lot of pressure I was putting on myself and a lot of pressure Eddie and I were putting on each other to really try to get a win and a pole before we separated at the end of the season. You almost get so blinded by what you're trying to do that you forget how you're supposed to drive a race car and things like that. I think once we got settled down at the end of the year we got back to running well again."

YOU THINK YOU'VE GOT ENOUGH MUSCLE UNDER YOU NOW THAT YOU'LL BE SMOOTHER? "I think the pressure is gonna be on. I think I need to try to win as many races as anybody else, but I think last year I was so blinded by everything that was going on. I really wanted to do a good deed for the Wood Brothers and really wanted to win. It would have been more of a sentimental thing to me and would have made me happier than anything to get a win for them before I left, but I was blinded by what I was supposed to do in a race car. With me this year, I think I understand and I've learned from the mistakes I made last year. Hopefully, I'll get back to being the way I should and being a good race car driver."

HOW PATIENT WILL YOU BE WITH YOURSELF THIS YEAR? "I don't know. This is the first time that Raymond (Fox) and Shawn (Parker) and I have all worked together so we're gonna have some ups and downs. We're having a great test here. We're very fast, but we know we might leave here and go to Rockingham and test two weeks from now and be awful. We don't know what's gonna happen, so we're gonna have to be patient at certain tracks. We really think with the effort to build and time everybody is putting into this two-car program this year that we should be OK. We're gonna lean on that team a lot and, hopefully, they're gonna lean on us some. I'm probably not gonna be too patient. I've always probably been my worst critic and I really want to win some races and run good. That will make me feel better than anything. I feel like I owe it to Robert and Doug and M&M's to be able to do that, so we'll see what happens."

DOES IT TAKE AWHILE TO GET USED TO THE YATES HORSEPOWER? IS IT DIFFERENT? " I have talked to my teammate before as far as different ways you're gonna have to drive different race tracks. The cars with the horsepower and the bodies are gonna be different, the cars are different. So I've picked Rockingham and Atlanta to go test at. We have been testing Kentucky a lot this winter. We know we need some momentum so I can learn how to drive these race cars because I'll probably have to drive them different than what I was used to driving. I'm not saying that's a good thing or a bad thing. It might take me longer, but it's something we need to figure out. That's why we've picked the first couple of tracks to go test at so I'll know when I get there if I have to change my driving style. I'd rather have to change it now in January and February instead of July or August when the points have already been settled. That's why we've picked a couple of tracks at the beginning. I'll be able to tell you more in a month once I go to some more regular tracks as to whether or not I have to drive any differently. I've already talked to DJ a bunch about that and he's given me some odds and ends to look for at some of these tracks, so we'll go from there."

HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE IS THERE BETWEEN THE YATES CARS? "We actually have the same exact seats in every car, the same steering wheel, the same rearview mirror, same everything. So we're gonna be able to interchange. He sat in my car at Talladega and loved the seat and the way everything felt, so he's putting all those style of seats in his car. They're not gonna have to move anything so it's pretty cool in the shop for all the guys. They can do the inside of the cars the exact same way for all of them. That way, with this new concept we have on this team. If one car is better and I want to run that car, even if it was UPS last week, it's gonna have M&M's on it this week. That's the kind of philosophy we're gonna use."

WHERE DO YOU FALL AS FAR AS CAR SETUP? "To be honest with you, I've always wanted to have some say-so in what goes on in the car, but I think technology is coming to NASCAR Winston Cup racing so much lately that it's almost like Indy Car Racing. The engineers are running all this data off all these simulation programs they've got and they're gonna tell you what the car is gonna do or not do even before you run it. It's hard to say this, but I think that's the way NASCAR Winston Cup Racing is going. The engineers are having a big part of what's going on on this race track as far as how you're running and how you're not running. From what I heard, the 12 car had a lot of that going on last year and ran very well everywhere they went. It might be a new direction of going, so we've got a lot of engineers in our program this year. I think Doug hired some extra ones and we're gonna try that some. When you put this setup under simulation, this is what you're gonna get or this is what we're gonna go off of. I think things are changing and you've got to change with them. I think we're becoming more like Indy Car Racing each and every year with the technology that we have in this sport today."

HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO GET YOURSELF TO BELIEVE WHAT THE ENGINEERS TELL YOU WILL HAPPEN? "I'm very lucky that the engineer we have, Hoyt, knows how to put it in my terms. That's been great for me. Some engineers I've talked to I don't understand what they're saying, they're talking way over my head. But I think we're lucky enough to have someone that can put it in my terms and say, 'This is what you're feeling and why.' He first explains the engineering side of it and then he puts it in my terms where I can understand it and I kind of put it in my database and we go from there. I've been very fortunate and very lucky from that standpoint."

HAVING TWO GOOD RUNS HERE, IS IT ALL ABOUT GETTING COMFORTABLE AND IS THIS CAR THE FINAL PIECE OF THE PUZZLE? "I don't know. I think everybody has to get in a certain comfort zone, but here at Daytona you've got to have a good handling race car. Handling is very important here, but you've got to be in the right line at the right time. I've been running 20th with two laps to go and would end up 11th or 12th or vice versa. I've been very lucky and fortunate. I pay attention a lot. A lot of these veteran guys know what they're doing when drafting, so I try to stay behind them and be patient and try to ride it out until the end of the race. That's worked best for me. I think everybody has a different gameplan when they go into the Daytona 500 or any restrictor plate race. The one we try to use is stay in line and be patient. Pick a line and stay in it. I think if veterans see young guys just going back and forth, they're not gonna work with you because you're more liable to start a wreck than not. That's the philosophy I've always used. I'm gonna stay with it and just kind of ride it out, pick a line, stay with somebody, and then when it's time to go you go. That's the philosophy I'm gonna try to use again this year."

HAS WHAT YOU FEEL IN THE CAR CHANGED MUCH THE LAST FOUR YEARS? "I think racing has changed a lot since I came in as a rookie and I think the reason it has changed is the young guys that have come in this sport today run every lap like it's the last lap. I think when I came in as a rookie and when I was in Busch a couple of years ago, guys were riding around and saving tires or saving this or saving that. They weren't running 100 percent all the time, just make sure the car is in one piece and put yourself in position for that last pit stop and making the adjustments and things like that. It seemed like that was the way it was my first year and then, all of a sudden, in my second and third year its seemed like it flip-flopped. These guys come in and run every lap like it's the last lap of qualifying. There's no such thing as saving anything anymore or you're gonna get lapped. I think the Goodyear tires are helping us with that. They're so good that it's enabled us to do be able to do that week in and week out. The biggest change I've seen is that if you don't run every lap like you're qualifying, you're gonna get lapped and you're gonna be in trouble. I think that's the biggest change I've seen as a driver coming in the last four years that has changed for me in racing. It doesn't matter what track you're at, they're racing hard. You're on the edge and I think that's where racing is headed."

IS IT A BENEFIT TO SHARE INFORMATION WITH THE 88 OR IS THERE MORE PRESSURE BEING COMPARED TO WHAT THEY DO? "I think it's gonna be a benefit more than pressure. I've never had a teammate in NASCAR Winston Cup Racing. I had one in Busch and felt like we worked very well together, but never had one in Winston Cup so to have one, I think, it's gonna be a benefit. It's somebody I can lean on. I tested Homestead last year, took my setup and the 88 used it. They came back and ran very well, so we found out then that we liked the same thing. That was a big relief. Everytime we've driven a car here lately together, we like the same thing so I think that's gonna be a benefit to both of us. I might be able to help him in certain areas and he's gonna be able to help me in certain areas. As far as the pressure being compared to them, not yet. Maybe later in the season it might get to me, but right now it's more of a benefit than anything."

-ford racing-

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