Indianapolis: Sadler - Dodge Friday interview

ELLIOTT SADLER, Driver of the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger What happens if it rains and nobody gets to practice? "Everybody wants to practice but everybody has been to Indy so many times and everybody has tested here so many times...

ELLIOTT SADLER, Driver of the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger

What happens if it rains and nobody gets to practice? "Everybody wants to practice but everybody has been to Indy so many times and everybody has tested here so many times that everybody has a lot notes so it won't be the end of the world if we don't get to practice today. They'll change the schedule around a little bit for tomorrow. I think it's very important to qualify. There are so many cars here and it's such a prestigious race that NASCAR will do what it can with the schedule tomorrow to get qualifying in."

Speed is important here, handling is important here, what's the key? "It's a fun racetrack. It's cool for us NASCAR drivers to be able to come here and race at Indy once a year. I wish we came here twice a year. I'd like to come here once with the road course and once with the oval. It'd be neat. It's a fun racetrack. You know that everyone brings the best of everything they've got -- their best car, their best motor, everything but the kitchen sink they throw at it. We feel like we've done that for this weekend. I had so much fun here a couple of years ago sitting on the pole and leading a bunch of laps, things like that, and racing with Jeff Gordon and Jarrett for the win. It was cool. Every time you come through the tunnel here at Indy you start getting chills and that adrenaline starts flowing. I'm looking really forward to it. We all showed up with the 2006 noses -- Kasey, Scott and myself. We're just going to go back to basics of what worked for Evernham Macrospores last year and see if we can't get back on a roll like we had. We're going to take a step back and try again and we decided to do that here at Indy.

Compare Daytona to the prestige of Indy? "Both of these races are very, very big but it's like comparing apples to oranges. Daytona is so big because that's where the France family is from and it's the Super Bowl of our sport and start of our season. Where Indy there is so much here from the 19-teens when they had the first Indy 500 here. Tony George and his people have really treated the fans so nice over the years. The first time I showed up I couldn't' believe how many Indy 500 fans were here supporting NASCAR. It just shows that this is the racing capital of the world as far as I'm concerned. They treat us very well here and I love racing here, but I think it's apples and oranges. They're both big in their own way and they both have their own identity as far as their history and the track and the way we race on it. You can't take anything away from either one of them. They are two really big races in our sport and they make our sport a lot of fun."

Would you like to see Indy fill an opening for a road course on the schedule? "I think it'd be cool. I'd love to come here twice a year to run the road course one time and the oval one time. This is a big market for all of our sponsors and we love coming here. We love to run road courses anyway so why not throw another one out and come to this place twice. You could pack some fans in and I think it would be cool."

Is that the first time you've run the 2006 nose? "Kasey brought one to Michigan but when we get on the track this afternoon it will be first time I've run one all season long. We had to do something. My poor guys have been burning the midnight oil working all day and all night trying to figure out something about these new noses. A lot of it has to do with our driving styles. Kasey and I both like a lot of front downforce on the front our cars and we want to have the cars loose so we can be successful. The new nose -- not that there's anything wrong with it -- just doesn't fit our driving style like we wanted. We all sat down -- us two and Scott -- and decided we wanted to try something different. It's a big race for us. Allstate is a big sponsor for Evernham Motorsports. We decided to come here and try something different."

Is it wait-and-see for the mile-and-a-half tracks or is that change for now? "It's for this weekend. We're going to run the 2006 nose for the rest of the year. We want to be competitive. We want to win races. We want to run up front. We ran so very well last year, and not saying that this is going to fix it overnight, but we just need to get back to the basics and start over. We said 'This is what we had last year and this is what worked'. We have to keep a checklist so we can figure out if this is affecting us good or is this affecting us bad."

Ray Evernham believes this will give you more speed right away. Do you agree? "I hope so. We're definitely not going to come here to one of the biggest races of the year with something that we think is going to be less speed. We're all pretty optimistic that we're going to be a little bit better in traffic, so we're hoping it's going to pay off for us. We're the same team and the same organization that won the most races last year and the most poles last year. We've got guys that know how to get it done. We didn't really lose anybody over the winter. So we know how to get it done. We just got caught off guard a little bit with the COT, the new nose and the new Goodyear tires we're running. Three brand new things all at once and we just kind of missed it a little bit. Sometimes that happens. We've had to re-evaluate where we're putting most of our help at. There's only so many hours in the day so where do you spend your time at. We're thinking that going back to the basics and doing what worked last year will eliminate some of the problems we're having this year."

What do you think of the people who run in other series? "I think that's between the driver, the owner and the sponsor. Nobody else has nothing in the world to do with that. The sponsor invests all the money and so does the owner and puts the time and effort. If your owner or sponsor says it's okay to go and do other things, okay. NASCAR racing is hard enough. We race 38 times a year and it's very serious. If we have a chance to go play a little bit and have fun and mingle with the fans on a different plateau, then why shouldn't we do that? But that should be up to us three, nobody else."

Would it hurt the sport someday if drivers have contracts where they can't go somewhere else? "I think so. If you're having fun doing it, then why not? Why do people go Busch racing? You can race, you can have fun, wherever the points end, the points end. Cup racing is so stressful and so cut-throat. There's so much money involved and there's so much competition that if you've had a rough weekend, you've had a rough weekend and you want to go bury your head in the sand. So if I have a chance to go race on a local track or a Busch race or go to the dirt track, it's so much fun. It brings the fun back into the sport. You've got to imagine how we used to race when everybody first got started. Again, I think that's got to go back to each particular owner and driver. I think you've got owners now that don't like their drivers going to do other things and owners who really don't care. If you're going to help promote the sport and help with sponsors, then go do it."

How much does it affect you not to test here? "Well, now we're testing for Pocono. A lot of people used to build brand new cars to come here and test then test them again at Pocono under racing conditions. If they passed that test and ran very well then they brought them to Indy. I know we did that with the Wood Brothers and with Yates and with other teams. I know other teams did it to. It just takes out a test session and makes things a little harder when you come in, maybe a little bit more unknown. Even though they're two totally different tracks Pocono and Indy are very similar in terms of the banking and speeds and things like that."

Are the races on Watkins Glen, Pocono and Indy similar? "I can't buy into that. To me Pocono is not an oval. I've never had an oval I've been running 200 miles-an-hour going into turn one. It might be cool to write about for you guys but I can't buy into. I can't see Indy as a road course. Maybe if you opened up the inside it would be a road course, but I just can't buy into that. To me, maybe my driving talent doesn't stretch that far to think that when I'm practicing at Indy to think I'm practicing for Watkins Glen, it's just not the same thing for me."

Do NASCAR and Dodge have any problem with the nose? "Dodge has been 100 percent supportive of us. They just want us to run well. We're pretty much carrying the flag for them and they know where we're struggling right now. We need to try some things, so Mike Accavitti and those guys have been behind us. They said 'Look, we're behind you 100 percent. If you need to try this to make your team and your company better, then you need to try this.' We appreciate them working with us on that."

You really like this track, right? "I love this track. I've always run well here. I really like this track a lot. It really fits my driving style."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Ray Evernham , Tony George