This Week in Ford Racing September 7, 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus and the most recent winner on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, is one of only three drivers who have been in the...
This Week in Ford Racing
September 7, 2004
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus and the most recent winner on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, is one of only three drivers who have been in the top 10 all season (Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., are the others). As he enters this weekend's race at Richmond International Raceway, the sixth-place Sadler needs to just take the green flag to qualify for the final Chase for the Championship.
ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus
WHEN YOU SIGNED WITH RYR THERE WERE SOME RAISED EYEBROWS AND PEOPLE WHO WONDERED WHETHER OR NOT YOU COULD HANDLE A RIDE OF THAT STATURE. DO YOU FEEL YOU'VE PROVEN THOSE DOUBTERS WRONG WITH THE KIND OF SEASON YOU'RE HAVING?
"I feel like I always thought I could compete. We won a lot of Busch races and sat on a lot of poles and were pretty fast everywhere we went. I might have jumped in a Cup car maybe too early and I can definitely look back on it now and say at that age you need to be with a two- or three-car team. Being with a single-car team at that age was a big mistake, I think. A lot of places I went I didn't really have anybody to turn to and a lot of people forget how good we were running last year when we kind of split our team up a little bit and just never really recovered. We had a rookie crew chief, too, and me kind of being a rookie with the team, we had a lot of unknowns going on and it was too tough on Raymond (Fox) and I both. Since we brought more experience to the team and got another year under our belts, I think we're running just as good as anybody else has been running in this car. We've been very happy with the qualifying efforts and very happy with the average finishes and where we're at in the points. We actually have a legitimate chance to win the championship and I feel good about it. I got with a good team and got with a good crew chief and seem to be fast every week. We've unloaded fast and probably been the highest qualifying Ford every single weekend for two years in a row, except for a very few. It's not like I just woke up and learned how to drive a race car. You've got to work together and kind of put it all in place. But I am getting my confidence back to where I used to have it in the Busch Series, where I think I can do what I need to do in the race car and it's showing every week."
DO YOU FEEL THIS TEAM HASN'T GOTTEN THE RESPECT IT DESERVES?
"I don't care if I get the respect or not. The media or fans want to talk about certain guys - the head guys in the sport. I'm not worried about that. I'm not here to try to get recognized or to have people talking about me. I'm here to drive race cars. That's what I love to do and that's what I want to do, but my team works just as hard or harder than anybody else in the sport and they deserve some credit. To come from where we were last year and be as strong as we have this year and haven't really heard much about it, that kind of upsets me because those guys have worked hard. Me, I don't care. You don't have to talk about me at all, but give my team the respect that they deserve."
A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK YOU'RE ONE OF THE BEST GUYS WHEN IT COMES TO ENDORSING A PRODUCT OR COMMERCIALS. YOU'RE FUNNY WITH AN ENGAGING PERSONALITY. IS IT MORE IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO BE KNOWN AS A GOOD RACE-CAR DRIVER FIRST AND PITCH MAN SECOND?
"Yeah, definitely. I would want sponsors to come to this team because I'm a good race-car driver and not because I'm a pitch man. My attitude is not gonna change. I've met a lot of great people in this sport from people on race teams to media to fans, and I'm gonna continue to be the same guy. I've seen a lot of people change in this sport. They're not the same people they were and that's not cool. I've really stayed focused on being the same guy I was when I first started Busch racing. I've got a few guys that hang around me all the time that will let me know if I get out of hand. I want to always be that same guy who has fun doing this. I mean, I'm living a dream. Who are we kidding here? I'm getting paid to do the thing I've loved to do since I was seven years old, so you've got to look at it as having fun. I'm part of a growing sport with a great team. I drive for an awesome car owner and the greatest sponsor in the world with all of the M&M characters and stuff, so I just have to continue to be the same guy. As far as being a race-car driver, I just have to make that speak louder than any words I say or any commercial I make."
AS FAR AS THIS WEEKEND'S RACE AT RICHMOND GOES, YOU WERE A FAN OF THIS NEW POINT SYSTEM FROM THE OUTSET AND IT APPEARS TO BE PLAYING OUT LIKE NASCAR HOPED.
"Yeah. I have been for this from the very beginning and I was in the minority a lot. I was one of the very few that actually liked it, but I think I saw the same thing NASCAR saw, where not just one team is running for the championship. Now you've got 10 teams and that gives more sponsors an opportunity to race for the championship and more fans to pull for their favorite driver. This thing is a lot more fun and it has to be a lot more fun for everybody. I look at it like this, if I was watching a football game and it was 41-0 at the start of the fourth quarter, I'm gonna turn the channel. If it's 0-0, I'm probably gonna watch it. It just wasn't fair for the fans at Phoenix or Atlanta or Homestead - some of these tracks that end the season - it wasn't fair that we already knew who the champion was gonna be before we got there. It's like watching a basketball game where you already know who is gonna win. Yeah, you might want to watch it because there might be a few slam dunks or good plays, but when you know who is gonna win the game, it takes a lot of fun out of it. So I think with this new system it adds that much more excitement and that's why I was for it."
WHAT KIND OF RACING DO YOU FORESEE THIS WEEKEND AT RIR? SOME THINK TEAMMATES COULD PLAY A FACTOR OR BUMP-AND-RUNS COULD BE EVEN MORE PREVELANT.
"It's hard to play that out. I think everybody was saying that about Bristol, too, and we didn't see anything like that at Bristol. I think the guys in the championship right now - from about seventh to 15th - are so scared of wrecking or putting ourselves in bad position that we can't afford to take anybody out or do anything like that. We have to keep ourselves on the race track. We've got to make laps. We can't put ourselves in a position that might harm somebody else because we might get ourselves too. I think that's why you saw a pretty calm race at Bristol and you're probably gonna see the same thing at Richmond. You're gonna see good track position and some good strategy, but I don't think you'll see stuff to try to take people out or be wild because you don't want to take yourself out."