This Week in Ford Racing September 15, 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, is one of four Ford Racing drivers in NASCAR's Chase for the NEXTEL Cup. (The others are Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Mark...
This Week in Ford Racing
September 15, 2004
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, is one of four Ford Racing drivers in NASCAR's Chase for the NEXTEL Cup. (The others are Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Mark Martin.) The first of the 10-race race to the 2004 championship is Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway, where Sader finished 15th in late July. It has been a breakout season for the 29-year-old driver from Emporia, Va.. Two of Sadler's three career victories occurred this year, and he is one of only three drivers to be in the top 10 in the points standings for the entire season.
ELLIOTT SADLER , No. 38 M&M's Taurus
WHERE WILL YOU TEST DURING THE UPCOMING WEEKS?
"We haven't made our minds, yet. We're looking at Phoenix. I think our mile-and-a-half, two-mile track program is very good. I think we're going to really run good at Charlotte, I think we're going to run good at Dover and Atlanta, Homestead, places like that. I think the only track that stands out that I need some help at is probably Phoenix, so we'll go there, and we still have one more test left other than that, and I don't know what we'll do with that. We might save it for one of the runs there at the end of the season - see where we are in the points. But, we're just going to play it by ear. Nobody knows really how to play this game yet, because it's new to everyone, so we'll see what happens."
DO YOU WISH YOU WOULD'VE SAVED A FEW TESTS FROM THE SEASON?
"No. No, I don't regret anything I've done this season. We're sixth in the points and have run good. I don't regret anything, at all. I'm not even looking back at stuff like that."
HOW DOES A TEST SESSION HELP YOU AT SOME OF THESE TRACKS?
"It just helps a lot - especially when you're building new cars. You know, if you sit still in racing you get leapfrogged. I think we experienced that last year, we got leapfrogged really bad and we had to go to work this winter and I think we got caught up to where we need to be and if we just keep running the same setups every week you're going to run into trouble. We saw Jimmie Johnson at New Hampshire try something the first race there, at Indy try some different things, and you got to do that. And we [tried] it [last] weekend at Richmond. We brought a brand-new car, not like anything we ever raced, to see if it's something we might want to run on flat tracks for the championship race. You got to test things, so test sessions are definitely good for you."
YOU SAID YOU HAVE OTHER NEW CARS, TOO. WILL YOU RUN THEM THE REST OF THE YEAR?
"Yeah, I think we might go to Kentucky and run 'em back to back. But that's what I'm so pumped up about this race team. The car that we ran at California, had the same car at the Brickyard - and I got two more at home that's just exactly like 'em, one's probably a little better, and we haven't gotten a chance to run 'em yet. Todd's been saving 'em, and I think the first time we'll see one is Kansas City, will be the first time that one will come out. I think we're going to run our California car at Dover. So. We got some good cars lined up, plus some really great races. I think we can get the mile-and-a-half tracks that if we don't finish in the top five at all at those tracks I'm going to be very disappointed."
YOU VIRTUALLY CLINCHED A SPOT IN THE CHASE FOR THE NEXTEL CUP WITH YOUR VICTORY AT CALIFORNIA. AND, SINCE YOUR POINTS HAVE BEEN RE-SET FOR THE FINAL 10 RACES, COULD YOU RELAX A LITTLE ENJOY YOUR WEEK AND THE RACE AT RICHMOND?
"Yeah, I've definitely enjoyed this week. I've been home and just hanging out with my folks and hanging with my parents and we've had a great time. This is a great atmosphere. There's not many times, the last two months we've been coming to the track about to throw up and the pressure's on you and things like that, so it's great to come to the track knowing that you can take some chances, try some things, and it's just not going to absolutely kill you in the points."
HAVE YOU SEEN A CHANGE IN YOUR CREW AS THIS SEASON HAS PROGRESSED? THEY WON THE McDONALD'S PIT CREW CHALLENGE AGAIN RECENTLY.
"It's unbelievable. Eddie D'Hondt came onboard at the end of last year, and job number one for him was to make sure that we had a great pit crew in case we get in a Chase for the Championship that we would have somebody on pit road that could advantage of the other teams and have great, consistent pit stops and he's done that. Eddie D'Hondt has done a great job and really taken our team to the next level. I think we do have the best pit crew on pit road. We can able to take four tires when other teams maybe have to think about two because they're scared of losing track position. They are definitely a big, big reason of why we're where we're at today. And, it makes it easier for me on the race track. I mean, you don't want to come in fifth and come out eighth or ninth every time, you wear your car out, you wear yourself out, and they've gotten me out in the lead a bunch of times. Texas, they got me out ahead of everybody, and they did the same thing again at California, and it makes a big difference."
YOU HAVE BEEN ONE OF FORD RACING'S BETTER QUALIFIERS THIS YEAR WITH 12 TOP-10 STARTS.
"I think that if anybody in this sport ever works with Todd Parrott they understand that he leaves no 'i' undotted, no 't' uncrossed. When we come to the race track, I've never seen anything, any team, any person any prepared more than he is. It's unbelievable. I've learned so much this year from watching his preparation. It's crazy the notes they keep on these cars and the notes they have. Any little change that we make at the race track, they've already figured it out back at the shop before we make the change. And the notes they go through and all the simulations they run. I mean, we run tons of qualifying laps in the shop on computers during the week, so when we get here and we unload we're right there on the money. It's a big compliment to my engineer, Kevin, and Todd and everybody back at the shop that worked their guts out, so when we get here Fridays and unload it - but if you ever work with Todd Parrott, all you have to do is work with him one week, you'll understand why we're so good every Friday when we unload."
WAS THE IMPORTANCE OF QUALIFYING EVER DISCUSSED?
"I think that's just his mentality. That's just him. We didn't really sit down and do it, I think it's just his preparation has taken all the other stuff out of play. When we get here, man, we're on the money, and when we make changes we already know what the changes are going to do before we make 'em. It takes a lot of guess out of it. It's fun to work with a race team like it. It's an honor to drive for a team that does that much work at the shop, week in and week out, every day of the week, so when we get here we can pretty much just make little, few minor changes and we should be close."
IF YOU WERE TOLD BACK IN FEBRUARY BEFORE THE SEASON STARTED THAT BY THE 26TH WEEK YOU'D HAVE TWO VICTORIES AND A SPOT IN THE CHASE FOR THE NEXTEL CUP, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THOUGHT?
"Hey, I would've taken that and never started a car all year long. I've been very happy with this year. We knew we were going to have a good team. Did we know we were going to be sixth in the points? I don't know. That was a gut check. But after seven or eight races, and we won Texas and we started getting some top-fives and top-10s, I was, like, 'You know what? Hey, we got something for these guys." I think if you look at the last five or six races that we've ran here, we've gained just as many points as anybody else. My team's just getting better and better. I think Todd and I are getting better together, we know how to build our cars a little better, the fab shop's getting better, our engines are getting better, now that we've got the new heads, we're starting to learn more about them. So, we're peaking right at the right time. I think we're just getting into where we need to be to run for this championship. We think we can win it. If you ask anybody on our race team, we think we're the ones that everybody needs to beat to win this championship and that's the attitude that we have."