Joliet: This Week in Ford Racing - Sadler, Wood, part II

This Week in Ford Racing July 9, 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup part 2 0f 2 DOES IT INTIMIDATE YOU AT ALL, LOOKING AT THE PAST HISTORY OF THE DRIVERS WHO HAVE GOTTEN INTO THE 28 CAR AT ROBERT YATES RACING? "Well, if that situation comes, I'll worry...

This Week in Ford Racing
July 9, 2002

NASCAR Winston Cup
part 2 0f 2

DOES IT INTIMIDATE YOU AT ALL, LOOKING AT THE PAST HISTORY OF THE DRIVERS WHO HAVE GOTTEN INTO THE 28 CAR AT ROBERT YATES RACING?

"Well, if that situation comes, I'll worry about that then after it happens. No, I really haven't paid that much attention to 'em, but I pay attention that I have followed that 28 car for a long, long time. I've been watching it so I do know that that car can run. And Fatback and Ricky Rudd, what they've done with that program the last three years has been unbelievable. So that's why I'm just kind of waiting and hanging out to see what happens. If he decides to retire, they'll have to put somebody in that car, and I think right now I'm maybe near the top of the list. So that's why I'm hanging around and taking my chances. It might bite me real bad. I might have to go and try something else, but I think I'm willing to take that chance. I feel like that's a chance I need to take. I couldn't live with myself if I sold myself short and not get my chance to get in that car ,so I'm just kind of waiting it out."

AS A COMPETITOR, WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE A RULE SET IN STONE THAT WITH FOUR LAPS TO GO, SIX LAPS TO GO YOU WOULD KNOW WHAT WOULD HAPPEN ON THAT SIZE RACE TRACK?

"Yes, I do very, very much. You know you can do it that way with the size of the race track because if it is the such and such 400 or 500, they want it to be four or five hundred miles. I can see that point, but I would like to see them go to the green, white, checker like they have in the trucks because I want to make sure that if there is a big wreck with four or five laps to go and they are going to red-flag you, they are going to put a lot stay dry down, but if you have to get it done within so many laps, you might not have time to get the track run in like you should. I think that is some of the equations that we go through sometimes. But I'd like to see NASCAR come up with a rule that it is going to be green, white, checkered or it's gonna be this or it's gonna be that. That way we know as competitors and the sponsors know, the fans know, and you won't have any upset people like you saw Saturday night at Daytona. So, I know it's hard to do, but I would like to see them come up with some kind of set rules and I think that if this situation keeps happening that definitely something like that should be on the horizon."

IT SEEMS THAT A LOT OF TIMES SOME DRIVERS WILL ALLOW OTHER GUYS FOLLOW THEM WITHOUT A PROBLEM, BUT OTHER GUYS THEY WON'T ALLOW TO FOLLOW THEM WITHOUT BLOCKING. WALTRIP DIDN'T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH YOU BEHIND HIM, BUT WHEN GORDON GOT BEHIND HIM HE STARTS MOVING ALL OVER THE PLACE. WHY? "Well, you have to look at it this way. Jeff Gordon was leading the race, had a very fast race car and is definitely one of the guys to beat every single week on a speedway. And he is up in the points, too. And you've got to think Sterling was up there, Dale Jr. and Michael and these guys are all racing up at the front of the pack for points also. They are going to try to keep Jeff Gordon a lap down because they knew that he could come back and win. I think on my behalf, Michael knew that my car was wrecked and there was probably no threat of me coming up there and challenging him for the win so why not let me back on the lead lap. So now I owe him a favor, if it was ever reversed, I owe him one. But you gotta think Jeff Gordon can win every single race he goes to so if you can get him a lap down they are going to try to take advantage of that as much as they can because he is a threat. Us with a tore-up race car Saturday night, it would have been hard for me to go all the way back up to the front to try to take the win from Michael on Saturday night. So that's a different-type situation. I did not get it on my own. He let off to let me get back on the lead lap. That's the difference between my situation and Jeff's situation."

ARE THERE GUYS THAT PLAY FAVORITES?

"I think so. I think it goes back to how you race these guys every week, if you've ever done it for them. It's a scratch my back, I'll scratch yours kind of deal. Unless we're running for a championship, I'm first and you're second and I've got you a lap down, I'm going to have a pretty good points night if I just keep you a lap down. It's a lot of different stuff that goes into it. It's a spur of the moment. I feel so sorry for those spotters if you're leading; I can see Michael Waltrip's spotter right now Saturday night. Every time a caution came out he probably had 20 people hitting him on the shoulder to tell Michael to let him by. It's a tough deal, but it goes back to what's gone on in prior races, not just what's going on that night."

HOW FAR DOES YOUR MEMORY GO BACK TO THINGS LIKE THAT?

"It goes back pretty good. A lot of times your team owner has a lot to do with it or your spotter going, hey, let's give so-and-so a break. It'll come back to return the favor. A lot of that goes into it."

YOU SAID YOU'VE PUT YOUR EGGS IN THE 28 BASKET, AND RICKY SAID LAST WEEK HE'D LIKE TO STAY IN THE 28. WHAT DOES THAT DO TO YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM?

"I think it's fine. I asked Ricky a long time ago, I think it was January of this year at a Ford commercial, I asked him what his plans were. You know how long was he going to be in racing, in the 28 car, this, that and the other. We talked about it, and he didn't know how much longer he was going to race, and I was like, 'Well, if you decide not to, put in a good word for me. I'd really like to drive that car if you're going somewhere.' And it just kind of took off from there and I just kind of decided to stick it out and wait to see what happens. I'm not in any hurry. There are still a lot of good seats that are going to be open next year if Ricky decides to get in that race car. He knows that, I know that, we all know that. But if for some reason he decides to retire or do something else, somebody has got to drive that car and I would like to be that person."

WHERE WOULD THAT LEAVE YOU IF HE DECIDES TO STAY? ARE YOU TALKING TO OTHER PEOPLE JUST IN CASE?

"Oh, yeah, I've talked to some other team owners and I've been very up front and honest with every single one of them. Everybody is kind of waiting for the same thing to happen, to see what Ricky's decision is and then we'll all go from there. So I'm just waiting and hanging out to see what happens and we'll all go from there."

EDDIE WOOD:

YOU ARE 20TH IN POINTS. MIDWAY THROUGH THE SEASON WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

"We started out at Daytona really well and backed it up with some good runs at Darlington and a couple other places and then we kind of got in a slump. And things began to come around a little later after that and, of course, the deal with Elliott started. I think everybody thought we were just going to roll over and everybody get mad at each other. And we agreed that we was not going to do that, we was gonna race. That was what it was all about. We're running better than we were before it all happened. We're qualifying better, racing better and right now we're higher in the points than we were when this whole mess started. We're just going week to week and when we get a chance we're trying to figure out who we're going to get drive our car and pick at Elliott about where he's going. I'm not sure anybody knows what anybody's doing. Everybody is keeping the cards pretty close to the vest and waiting for the first guy to show the ace or the deuce and see what happens there."

HOW DIFFICULT IS THIS TIME FOR YOU?

"It's not bad. If you were angry or if Elliott were being hostile or we were being hostile that would make it tough. But we're going on as if nothing has ever happened. We're all friends. It gets beyond the business part when you are friends. You just, okay, this is the business part of it. When you are in the Winston Cup garage or the Winston Cup area the first thing you've got to do is leave your feelings outside the fence because somebody's going to hurt them before the day's over. That's just the way it is. We're having fun. We're doing what we need to do. We're looking for a guy to replace Elliott. We haven't gotten to talk to everyone we need to talk to. Like I said, nobody has made the first move yet, and I'm not sure where the first move is going to have to come from to get the thing tripped off to finishing it off. It may be as late as September before things start falling into place."

I ASKED ELLIOTT IF ALL OF A SUDDEN POLES AND WINS STARTED COMING WOULD HE RECONSIDER. HE SAID THAT WOULD BE UP TO EDDIE. WOULD YOU RETHINK THE SITUATION?

"Yeah. Like I said, we're all friends and we're supposedly grown people and you're supposed to do the grown-up thing. If things started working out really well here and if he offered to stay or really wanted to stay, you'd be an idiot not to do it. It's so hard to make things work. The next guy I get, it may not work as well as it does with Elliott. It may work better. That's the chance you take. And where Elliott is going to go, he may struggle or he may be way better off. A long time ago when I was a kid a guy told me you never know how you look until you get your picture took. And it's kind of that way. You just have to wait and see. No bridges are burned here and they won't be."

WHEN IT FIRST STARTED HAPPENING, HOW DID YOU DEAL WITH IT WITH THE TEAM? "I just got everybody together, and I told them, 'Okay, this is what's going on. Elliott has decided he needs to do something else. We'll get through it. We're going to continue to race.' The good thing about all this, you don't have time to dwell on it. We get home on Sunday night, sometimes Monday mornings, and we're gone again Thursday. And we start over again. And there's not a lot of time to dwell on it. You just do your job. We race. Elliott races. You try to keep everybody motivated. My group here, everybody is really good friends with Elliott so nobody was gonna get mad and they didn't. So we just went on about our business and we're doing better now than we were before. I think it kind of speaks for itself."

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN THROUGH SOMETHING LIKE THIS BEFORE?

"Oh, yeah. This is not the first time this has happened to us. We've been on both sides of it. You've got to remember this team's been here for 52 years or whatever and there's been a lot of drivers come through here. Some have left on their own. Some have left because the sponsor or we wanted them to leave. It is not a new deal. In 1991 when Dale Jarrett was here, he had decided to move to Joe Gibbs' team. Two weeks later we won Michigan. And he and I are best friends right now. It is just part of the game. You set your friendships aside of the business part of racing. Unless you're a racer, it's probably hard for you to understand. Number one, you've got to be crazy to do what we do anyway. You've got to be even crazier to drive 'em. So our group that's in the garage, that do this every week, are probably a little different than some of the people that's normal people. You just deal with them. For instance if you've got some trouble in your life - your stock is down, your wife is mad at you, your kid is mad at you, whatever you've made some wrong decisions in other things, not racing related, when you get in the garage and they crank those motors up and you get ready to practice all that goes on the back burner, every bit of it. The racing comes first. You have to be an idiot like me to know that but that's just the way it is."

WHAT ROLE DO YOU SEE BILL FRANCE, JR. PLAYING IN NASCAR RIGHT NOW?

"I'm probably not the right one to ask that question because I only see Bill at the race tracks when he's there. To me, I think that everything that goes on in the NASCAR world he knows about. It goes before his eyes before it ever comes to be. Whether it be a rule change or something new that they're gonna go do or a new venue that they're gonna go chase, maybe a different race track or something like that. I think he and Mike work closely together with it. But I think he's aware of everything that goes on."

WHAT DOES A SPONSOR LOOK FOR IN A DRIVER? WAS ELLIOTT THE RIGHT GUY TO HAVE IN THE RACE CAR AND OUTSIDE THE RACE CAR?

"Oh yeah. Elliott is a sponsor's dream. Number one, he is an excellent race-car driver. Number two, he can do the off-the-track stuff. You can take him anywhere. You can bring him in front of any group of people whether it's your Wall Street type group or you're gonna do an appearance at a local beer joint. Elliott can do all of that. That's what sponsors need right now. They use a race-car driver off the track as much as we use him on the track. I just saw Elliott's schedule for the next month and he's gone more than we are. When he's not with us racing, he's doing the sponsor stuff, whether it's Motorcraft-related or Ford Motor Company or U.S. Air Force. There's a lot of appearances that aren't related to the actual sponsors I have. He's quite good at that. He's gone a long ways in this sport."

WHAT IS YOUR CRITERIA FOR A WINSTON CUP DRIVER? HOW MUCH OF A PART DOES PERFORMANCE PLAY?

"Performance really is the biggest part. You've still got to have or you want to get the best driver you possibly can get. After you decide who that group is, you decide who would fit into your program, fit into your sponsor's image of who they want. You just kind of narrow it down from there. Some drivers are better at off-track stuff than they are probably at performance. My race team, we look at trying to get the best race-car driver first and then the off-track stuff we'll begin to work on that later."

ARE YOU LOOKING OUTSIDE WINSTON CUP?

"We have looked outside of our sport. We've looked outside of the Cup series, even into other series'. You look at everybody, everything. Let's just talk about Cup, for example. If you're in the Cup garage, if you're in a Cup car, chances are you can get the job done with the right people and the right equipment. You guys hear that word all the time - combinations, personalities and people - but that's really what it's all about. Most everybody in the garage now are pretty equal on equipment, motors, bodies. There's not a lot of variation in there. Your crew chief, your driver, this or that are compatible with each other, you just really don't know how good anyone is until you actually go do it. That's the hard part of this business. You gotta pick that guy out that will fit your program. We don't really have an audition ceremony. You know, let's go down here and test and do this and this and this and, okay, you don't work so let's go get another guy. Time-wise it's just hard to do that. So most of the time you just pick your guy and you do all the research you can to eliminate all the problems or the things that won't work and hope your deal works. That's the hard part of our deal."

ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT FINDING A YOUNG GUN TO REPLACE SADLER?

"We've talked about that. We haven't gotten really that far. A couple of the guys we're looking at are veterans in the Cup series, but that's not out of the realm of possibility either. We did that with Elliott, and, unfortunately, it's coming to an end here, but still it was the right thing to do. We're just now getting to where we need to be, but things have worked out like they have, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't do that again. If the right guy became available we would definitely do that."

DALE JARRETT WALKED FROM HIS WRECK SATURDAY NIGHT BECAUSE HE FELT THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE WAS TOO SLOW. IS THAT A PROBLEM PARTICULARLY AT DAYTONA OR IS THAT A PROBLEM OTHER PLACES TOO?

"I don't know what was going on with that. I was on pit road and I saw it on the monitor. I was just looking at it. I didn't hear any commentary or anything. We've got our own headsets with stuff going on. But I did see Dale walking back and I heard the comments that they were slow there for whatever reason. It was a big wreck involving a lot of people. My thinking right off the bat would be they saw Dale getting out. They knew he was okay, so they probably were tending to people who hadn't got out of the race cars or stuff like that. I really didn't hear or see enough of it to make a comment."

FROM A TEAM OWNER, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF DALE JR.'S DECISION TO TRY TO PASS HIS TEAMMATE?

"To me, I think Junior did the right thing there. Given those two situations, there was a lot of talk about him helping Michael win the 500 and then Michael helped him win the Firecracker last year. He probably just decided, 'Man, I'm just going to try to win this thing.' To me, that's the way you should do it. That's the way his daddy would have done it. His daddy would have passed whoever. He would have tried to pass whoever it was, his teammate or not. I think he did the exact right thing."

MICHAEL WALTRIP SAYS HIS TEAM STARTED TO COME AROUND ONCE HE ASSUMED A LEADERSHIP ROLE. IS THAT WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IN A DRIVER, A TEAM LEADER?

"That certainly is a great asset to have. It takes such a load off the rest of the team, the crew chief, the shock guys and other people. You've got somebody else sharing the load, rather than the load being on the crew chief. That's kind of what I got back to with seeking a veteran driver. That's usually what you get. If you do a younger guy, that puts a bigger stress load on everybody on your team. But it works both ways. Michael has certainly done a good job the last couple of months with all the stuff he's had to deal with, all the talk and conversation about him leaving or whatever is going on there. He just stepped up and did the job and proved that he is worthy of what he's doing and I commend him for that."

HOW TOUGH IS THIS 20-WEEK STRETCH ON THE GUYS IN THE SHOP WITH WIVES AND KIDS? IS IT ANY DIFFERENT FROM THE FIRST PART OF THE SEASON?

"I think probably the difference is you know its 20 weekends now. When you start the year you know a break is coming in a little while. Now you are going to the end. It's so overwhelming, now we've got to go to November. The next weekend off, I guess, will be Thanksgiving. It is tough. It's tough on everybody. It gets back to what I said earlier about the type people that do this, week in and week out. It's just a little bit different. This what you enjoy and what you do. Me, personally, this is what I do. I don't have any hobbies. I don't golf, fish, hunt, nothing. We just race. I guess my definition of a great weekend off is to go watch my kid race. I went to Milwaukee on my weekend off. I haven't had a non-racing weekend in about two years that I actually was home and turned the TV on and watched a ballgame or something like that. That just doesn't happen to me. Most of the people that work here are the same way. If we're not racing on a particular weekend, I've got one kid that races open-wheel modifieds here, there's a go-karter here, there's a couple of dirt-track guys here. They're gonna race on their own. I don't know what kind of personality you call that. We just race."

ON SATURDAY, NASCAR GAVE A NEWS CONFERENCE ON TRACTION CONTROL. THEY SAID THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE THAT ANYONE HAS IT, BUT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR IT. DO YOU BELIEVE THAT ANYBODY HAS TRIED IT?

"I think it's out there. The particular unit that I saw was the one that Mike Helton held up at Martinsville. It was a black box-looking deal. It was no bigger than a pack of cigarettes. The one that he had was actually small enough that a driver could put it in his pocket, plug it in wherever he had it hid at, when the race is over put it back in his pocket, get out of the car and the evidence is gone. I'm not sure whether we run against it weekly or not, but I know it's out there because you can get it, but NASCAR has some things they are working on that you can find it. They are taking the cars apart, the top three or four every week. They are taking the dashes out, all the wiring, and that's the right thing to do to find it. But they're working on some stuff to find it while the car is moving. If the technology is there to have it, the technology is there to find. It's kind of like a radar detector. The same guys that make the radar detectors make the radar to start with. So I think the technology is there to catch it. I definitely would hate to be the first guy that got caught with it. I think it would be bigger than anything you guys have ever reported. I think NASCAR would really take a stand on it, regardless of who it was."

-ford-

Sadler, Wood part I

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Michael Waltrip , Mike Helton