MARTINSVILLE, VA. (March 26,2001) -- After more than three hours of high-speed driving on the way to his first Winston Cup victory Sunday, Elliott Sadler found the best way to relax was to get back behind the wheel. About five hours after ...
MARTINSVILLE, VA. (March 26,2001) -- After more than three hours of high-speed driving on the way to his first Winston Cup victory Sunday, Elliott Sadler found the best way to relax was to get back behind the wheel.
About five hours after scoring his first career Winston Cup win at Bristol Sunday, five hours filled with celebration and media interviews, Elliott crawled into his street car and began the solo drive back to the Wood Brothers Racing shop in Stuart.
"The drive back was unreal. I was just unwinding by myself," said Sadler, who began a two-day test session at Martinsville Speedway this morning to prepare for the April 8 Virginia 500. "I was still awestruck the entire drive at what had happened. It was a two and a half hour drive and I was on the phone the entire time, calling family and friends and sharing a lot of emotions." And when Sadler arrived at the shop after midnight, he was in for quite a surprise.
"When I got to the shop, there were a lot of people there and somebody had toilet papered the trees and shrubbery. That was pretty neat. That's what it 's all about," said Sadler, who not only notched his first win Sunday, but gave the Wood Brothers their first win in eight years.
"I think people are so happy to see the 21 back in victory lane and then to see the 21 and the 43 fight it out to the end. I think it brought back a lot of memories to a lot of fans."
Sadler didn't have long to savor his first win, though. By 8 a.m. today his team had rolled out two Motorcraft Fords in the new garage area at Martinsville Speedway for a day of testing. About an hour later, Sadler crawled back behind the wheel of the legendary No. 21. "We're back to reality here at Martinsville Speedway. We're still on a natural high, though," Sadler said at midday. "We've got a lot of momentum on our side. We've been running pretty good this year even up to this point. We're a lot better in the points than we've ever been. Going into Bristol and Texas we felt like we had a good chance at a top 10 or even a top five with the right circumstances. And the right circumstances fell our way. "We got ourselves a win and it's hard to put into words what that win means."
It's been many years since the Wood Brothers have put together a solid run on Martinsville's tight oval, but the team was feeling good about their chances in the Virginia 500 after the first day of testing. Sadler's best effort today was a lap of 20.45 seconds and even though that is well off the track record of 19.855 seconds, the team wasn't too concerned. Team co-owner Len Wood said the new, stiffer Goodyear tire would probably slow everyone's speed considerably when it comes time to qualify on April 6.
"We've never had great success here at Martinsville but I think our short track program is a lot better this year than it's ever been," said Sadler. "We're having a pretty good test so far. I'm pretty comfortable with the cars we brought here.
"You know, we always want to run good at Martinsville because it's so close to the Wood Brothers shop. That's always on our mind, but they've never had a lot of luck here and neither have I. But I'm trying to be optimistic about this year."
That certainly paid off at Bristol.
The Virginia 500/Advance Auto Parts 250 weekend kicks off with Bud Pole qualifying for the Craftsman Truck Series at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, April 6 followed by time trials for the Winston Cup Series at 3 p.m. Tickets for qualifying are $15 for adults and children under 12 get in free.
Tickets for the Advance Auto Parts 250 Craftsman Truck race are $30 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. All seats are unreserved. There still are great seats available for the Virginia 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race for $40-$70 each. To purchase tickets call the speedway ticket office toll free at 877-722-3849 or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.
- Mike Smith