Ford - Sadler 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.

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

IS THIS YOUR BEST OPPORTUNITY IN WINSTON CUP? "Oh yeah, and that's the way I'm looking at it. This is a great opportunity. I'm still amazed at what goes on in that race shop everyday that I'm there. The support they have, the people they have, the engineering group, the information that goes through that shop is absolutely unbelievable and I'm pumped about it. I'm stoked and ready to go. We've had some great tests at Kentucky, Rockingham and here at Daytona and things look on the up and up. DJ and I are really communicating very well so far and things are looking good. We've got a lot of stuff on our plate that we want to do this year and, hopefully, we'll start off right here at Daytona."

HOW IMPORTANT IS A GOOD START FOR YOU? "It's very important. I think momentum is the key in Winston Cup racing. I think everybody that follows it knows that. It's such a long season and there aren't many weekends off. If you ever get on a roll and get hot and win some races, you can go a long way. I think if we can get off to a good start the first three or four races, that will be a telltale sign of what kind of season we're gonna have."

ARE THINGS TURNING TO YOUNGER DRIVERS NOW? "It started with Jeff Gordon. Rick Hendrick took a big chance on him by bringing in a young guy and molding him into their group and things just took off. Now I think other sponsors and car owners are seeing the same thing. If you bring a young driver in, put him in some great equipment and surround him with the right people, the thing is gonna take off. I don't know if age has got anything to do with it. I doubt it, there are just a lot of talented drivers out there right now. Some of them haven't made it to Winston Cup yet, but the way the trend is they're gonna get 'em starting earlier and earlier. I hope that happens to me. I think now being in the situation I'm in and having a teammate to lean on. A lot of the new guys that have come in and run good have had veteran teammates that have been there, done that, to lean on and I think its really helped their cause and helped their situation. Now that I'm in that situation now, I hope it'll benefit me."

HAVE THEY STARTED CALLING YOU THE CANDYMAN? "Yeah, they've started calling me the candyman. Todd Parrott gave me that nickname down here testing. I didn't catch on the first time he said it. I was like, 'What's with the candyman?' But it didn't take long. It's pretty cool. I've been called that a few times and I can get used to that."

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO GET BACK IN ACTION? "This has been the longest winter of my life just because I was so eager to get back on the race track. I want to get back to what we do best and that's racing. I'm just very eager. I'm ready to go and I think everybody in the shop is ready to go. We feel like we've got a lot of critics to answer and prove wrong and the best way to do that is on the race track and we want to get to it. We've got a great group of guys. We're very young. Robert and Doug (Yates) have done a great job of surrounding us with a great core group that has a lot of information and we think we're gonna go far with it."

WHAT DOES THIS RACE MEAN TO YOU? "I think that's every kids dream is to come here and try to win the race. First, you've got to be in the race to have that chance. I remember the very first Daytona 500 I raced in and it was just absolutely unbelievable. I came here and bought tickets just like every other fan and sat in the stands and watched this race, but to be able to come here and win...we got so close last year by finishing second and it's just a taste you want to try to get over and over again. This race is so important to this sport and so important to our sponsors and our owners, it can really change your life as a race car driver. That's something I really want to work hard on - trying to win a Daytona 500. I think every driver wants to do that before they move on in this sport and that's something we're working hard to do."

YOU'VE BEEN SECOND AND THIRD IN THE PAST AT THIS TRACK. "We've been steadily climbing. The last three or four finishes I've had here have been very good finishes. I think I've adapted well to this race track. My guys have brought me a great race car. The actual race car we're racing here was the car DJ won with in 2000, so we know its been in Daytona USA and we want to try to make history and do that again. We've got high hopes for that. I feel like I get around this track good and my teammate has had good success at this track also, so we think we've got a lot of information to share between each other and, hopefully, one of us will come out on top."

YOU SAID YOU STUDIED VIDEO AND REALIZED YOU WEREN'T BEING AGGRESSIVE ENOUGH IN RESTRICTOR PLATE RACES. "I just was not aggressive as far as blocking and pushing. When you're restrictor plate racing all you see is what's going on around you. All you ever see is what you're doing, you can't pay attention with what's going on with 42 other cars so I decided to start going home and watching tapes and watching what other drivers are doing, watching in-car camera footage and really just learn. The guys that were winning races and running good were a lot more aggressive than I was inside the race car, so I decided to change my philosophy a couple of races ago and ever since then we've had some doggone good finishes. I've learned to race like that here at Daytona and we're gonna try to do that again."

WAS PART OF BEING PASSIVE JUST BECAUSE YOU WERE NEW AND WANTED TO GAIN RESPECT OF THE VETERANS? "I think it is. When you first come in you want to be respected as a race car driver. When you pull out in the draft, you want guys to go with you and help you. I think if you come in and you're an idiot and you're switching lanes back and forth all the time, the veterans are not gonna work with you at all. I was very careful of that the first couple of years and I just didn't know how aggressive these guys were at a lot of these restrictor plate races, so I had to change my attitude a little bit and change my approach to these restrictor plate races. I think it's working out well for me here at Daytona because I feel like I've paid my dues now and I can get away with some of that."

Ford - Burton optimistic in 2003

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