This Week in Ford Racing September 23, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, along with crew chief Todd Parrott, were guests this week on the NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference. ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 ...
This Week in Ford Racing
September 23, 2003
NASCAR Winston Cup
Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, along with crew chief Todd Parrott, were guests this week on the NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference.
ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus:
YOUR RESTRICTOR-PLATE PROGRAM SEEMS TO BE PRETTY GOOD.
"Yeah, I'm really happy with my speedway program. We probably had one of the fastest cars at Daytona at the 500 and had some ignition problems to get the year started, but we came back and backed it up with a third at Talladega. We had some bad luck in the pits at Daytona in July, but had another fast race car so I'm really looking forward to going to Talladega. We've got the same exact car we finished third with there and qualified third in the first race. We think we've made it a little bit better and we think we're pretty good on the engine package also, so we're looking forward to a good run this weekend."
WHAT HAS THE BIGGEST THING YOU'VE LEARNED MAKING THE TRANSITION FROM ONE CUP TEAM TO ANOTHER?
"The biggest thing I've experienced is communication, period, with the people that you surround yourself with and the people you work with week in and week out. No matter if it was when I had a crew chief change in my late model deal or when you go to work for a team for the first time, you've got to really learn everybody all over again. Coming from the Wood Brothers to Robert Yates, not every Winston Cup team does everything the same, so you've got to kind of think about what you thought you knew and kind of re-teach yourself to do things in a different way. I've never had a teammate before in NASCAR Winston Cup racing, so that also changes a little bit with the way you have to think about that aspect. It's pretty cool. You just have to keep changing with the times and keep your communication lines open and work with them as much as you can. It's almost like a marriage. You just kind of have to give and take and compromise and the better you can do that, I think will give you better performances on Sunday."
WILL SINGLE-CAR TEAMS EVENTUALLY HAVE TO FORM PARTNERSHIPS OR CAN THEY SURVIVE ON THEIR OWN?
"I think they've got to have some kind of partnership with some of these teams that have four or five teams. I think they could get so much more work done. They have so many more opportunities to test and learn things and share things at the race track. You know that old cliche that says two heads are better than one; I think that still stands true for Winston Cup, too. If we're struggling, I can always go to the 88. Even if they're not doing the same thing we're doing, maybe they can give us some kind of clue or hint or maybe a light bulb will come on with all the conversation that we have. I'm not saying a single team can't make it, but I'm saying it definitely betters their odds and betters their chances if they're part of a two- or three-car team."
HOW MUCH DOES CHEMISTRY PLAY IN COMING TOGETHER FOR A RACE?
"I think that's all of your eggs in the basket is communication. We all have access to the same equipment - the same type of chassis, the same type of body location, we're all on the same tire, pretty much all the engine parts are the same and you can buy them from the same manufacturer, but the people are the ones that have to put 'em together and fine tune it to get it as slick as they can for a race track each and every weekend. It all comes down to the people and how good they communicate with each other way back in the shop - a long time before we get to the race track to get that car right. It amazes me what our two guys go through on the surface plate every week - way before we get to the race track to make sure that car is in the perfect condition it can be in, whether it's template-wise, body-wise, chassis-wise or whatever. Their chemistry has to be good and to mesh with the crew chief so when he gets to the race track he knows how everything is. I think it's just such an important part in what we do week in and week out."
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MAKE SURE EVERYBODY IS WORKING TOGETHER?
"I think I'm their biggest cheerleader when I come into the shop every week. That's why I moved back here to Charlotte - to come and spend some time with the guys. They have a lot of employees here at Robert Yates Racing and I want to make sure each and every guy and I want them to know I'm here supporting them during the week because Lord knows they're supporting me and DJ as much as they can on the weekend. I think that's the biggest and best thing I can do. Yeah, I am the quarterback of the team, but I also need to be their biggest cheerleader, so I try to do that as much as I can."
IS IT MORE IMPORTANT TO BE ONE OF THE GUYS OR TO TAKE MORE OF A LEADERSHIP ROLE?
"I guess everybody has a different philosophy on that, but I like being one of the guys. I want to be on the same level that they're on. If I have to leave any leadership qualities open, I'll do that to Todd Parrott and let him handle that. But, as far as me, I want to be one of the guys. That's the way I've always been. That's my personality and that's the way I want to keep it."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE PLATE AND BODY CHANGES FOR THE RACE THIS WEEKEND?
"We've been talking about that. I don't think you're gonna see much difference at Talladega because it's not really a handling track. The only thing I hope it does is where drivers can use their head more since we have more throttle response now they don't feel like if they let off a little bit to let a car in line, they won't lose a lot of spots - they'll only lose that one spot. Hopefully, the drivers will be able to use their head a little bit better this time and a little bit more as far as giving and taking on the race track because we do have throttle response. Hopefully, that's what is obtained during the race, but you don't ever know until you get in the middle of it and get in the draft. We are making preparations to our radiators and things like that because we know their gonna run hotter with the spoiler being in the air a little more because of the stiffer rear springs, but as far as driver feel and things, hopefully it will just give us a better chance of using our head."
WILL YOUR CAR HAVE THE ROOF HATCH THIS WEEKEND?
"I don't know. I hadn't heard anything about people using the hatches this week. I don't know if they're approved yet. I know that we've got a hatch in place to put in for the first week that we hear they're approved. We're gonna put it in my car because I'm a pretty tall fella to be in a race car and I think the hatch is the new way of the future to making NASCAR that much safer, especially for big guys like us. I can't sit here today and tell you that if I hit driver side and stayed up against the wall, I don't think I could get out the right side of my car, so I think hatches are very well welcomed in our sport and I'm looking forward to them."
HOW WELL DID YOU KNOW OR FOLLOW DAVEY ALLISON?
"I didn't know him because I was so young and that was before my time, but I did follow him a bunch. I was a Davey fan a lot because my dad sold Texaco fuel and Texaco oil, so we always had a bunch of Texaco hats laying around the house with Davey Allison written on them, so I always wore them growing up. I also liked him because he was young. He was one of the first young guys that really came into the sport and had such a great fan following and he seemed like just a genuine nice guy every time I saw him on TV. I wish I would have gotten to know him, but I didn't. As far as following him and being a fan, I definitely was. I still remember everybody riding on the hood of his car going to victory lane after they won that race. It's cool memories like that that make young kids want to be a part of this sport and that's probably the biggest memory I have of him."
DOES DAVEY STILL HAVE A PRESENCE AROUND RYR TODAY?
"Probably more than you'll ever know. Actually, before I walked in here today, I'm actually at the shop, they were just putting up some Davey Allison-Robert Yates pictures in the shop that are gorgeous. I've only been a part of Robert Yates Racing a few months, but I've heard numerous Davey Allison stories from Robert and Doug Yates and it's pretty cool. Davey is definitely still in their hearts and still a big, big part of this race team and where it's at today. It's pretty neat to hear the stories from them."
WITH THE COMPETITION SO CLOSE TODAY. DO YOU HAVE TO SAVOR THOSE WINS WHEN YOU GET THEM?
"Yeah, I'd say that's a very true statement. We're not like a lot of stick-and-ball sports where there are only two teams playing and 50 percent of the teams are going to win that day. There are 43 of us that line up each and every week and I think that's what is so great about NASCAR Winston Cup racing. There's not much opportunity out there, so you've got to take advantage of it and use a lot of strategy and do whatever you've got to do. You've got to pull whatever kind of cards you've got to pull to try to get to victory lane. Yeah, when you get to victory lane, I suggest you savor it as best you can and live it up because you never know when the next one is gonna come. We all know that as drivers. We know it's so competitive that we never know when we're gonna get to victory lane next. My guys talk about it all the time. 'If we get to victory lane, what are we gonna do to celebrate? Are we gonna do doughnuts? Are we gonna do backflips? Are we gonna do something new?' We've got to come up with something cool that the fans are gonna like and it's cool to have teams talk about that because you never know when it's gonna happen. When it does, you want to make sure you can make the most of it."
WITH CARS RACING IN PACKS THIS WEEKEND, WILL THINGS BE MORE CONTENTIOUS WHEN THE YELLOW FLAG COMES OUT?
"I hope not. I hope we can all use our heads. Actually, that hasn't changed - the lead-lap guys working together coming back to the caution, slowing down and trying to keep all the cars in line. Hopefully, everybody will use their head at Talladega like we did at Dover. Yeah, we're all gonna be three wide pretty much the whole day, so there's gonna be a lot of deciphering trying to figure out who was in front of who, so NASCAR will probably have their hands full on that. If you think you're ahead of a guy, you just stay beside him on the caution and NASCAR will review it and let you know if you go in front or behind that car. I think you're gonna see a lot of that on the cautions, but I was very proud of everybody slowing down and getting their hands out of the window at Dover and trying to get above the scene of the accidents as fast as we could. I was very happy to see that because safety is our number one issue, so I was glad to see the way everybody worked on that and on pit road. It seemed to work out good for everybody."
THERE'S BEEN TALK NASCAR MIGHT REVERT BACK TO THE LAST COMPLETED LAP IF IT'S TOO CLOSE TO CALL. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
"We hope they don't ever have to do that. They told us in the driver's meeting that they would not do that. That would be the last-case scenario. I love the way Mike Helton does things. He kind of puts it in the driver's hands. 'Hey, we've had to step in this far because nobody is doing a gentlemen's agreement.' Somebody said something about the last completed lap, but they don't really want to step in and control that much of the race. They want to let the guys figure it out for ourselves, but if we start taking advantage of the system and not helping each other, I think they will go back to the last completed lap. I hope that won't happen. I hope the drivers can all use their heads and have some type of gentlemen's agreement at Talladega because we all know how close we're gonna be racing and, hopefully, we can take care of ourselves without them stepping in and doing that."
DO YOU FEEL WITH ALL THE SUCCESS BOTH EARNHARDT'S HAVE HAD A TALLADEGA THAT YOU'RE UP AGAINST SOMETHING MORE THERE AND WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE TO BEAT JUNIOR?
"I tell you what, you can definitely look at it and tell that his dad has been in his ear a long time about these restrictor-plate races. They said his dad could see the air and do things like that and I definitely think he must have told Junior how to do the same thing. He's probably one of the best drafters out there. He understands the air so much. He knows how to make his car faster besides yours and pull air from your car. He's just got these little bitty tricks that make it seem impossible to get around. He's got a great race car and a great motor, I'm not gonna take that away from him, but he knows how to use it so well. I think him and Michael Waltrip have such a great understanding with each other on the race track that they try to help each other as much as they can. So not only are you trying to outrun Dale, Jr., you're trying to outrun another Dale Earnhardt race car. I just think they work so well together and they're built so much alike, it makes it tough. Those guys work together so much better than any other teammates out there right now that we've got to catch up to them. They've really raised the bar of restrictor-plate racing and we've got a lot of catching up to do. Hopefully, we'll make some ground up on them this weekend. I'd say the 8 car is the guy to beat when you go down there. You know that for sure no matter where he qualifies. He had to go the rear of the field in the spring race and the next thing you know he was leading in no time. It's a lot of fun to be behind him. I got behind him in the spring race and pushed him to the lead down the back straightaway because I knew where he was going. I told my spotter with 10 or 15 laps to go that I was staying with the 8 car wherever he went. He knows how to make the most out of his car and it ended up benefiting both of us."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON GIVING A LAP BACK TO THE FIRST CAR DOWN A LAP?
"It's funny you brought that up. When Dale Jarrett and I flew together to Dover, we understand NASCAR's point of view, too. They have taken away something from us - racing back to the caution - so they want to give something back to us, which is the first person not in the lead lap of the running order to get their lap back. We said then that I don't think that's right. Don't give us anything. Make us work for it. NASCAR is built on hard racers earning everything they can get. It's kind of weird. You're sitting up there running good and having a good day and they're just letting people go by you left and right every time a caution comes out. That makes it tough. I wish they wouldn't do that. Mark my words, if they had it where they wouldn't help you, it would come to bite me one race or two, but I think it's better to make those guys earn their lap back from the leader. If they can't, then better luck next week. But don't be giving us anything. We definitely work hard in the shops and on race weekends and we don't want anything given to us. I don't know how long that rule is gonna be around. I know it's good for some people, but I'd just rather have us deal with earning our laps back."
HOW WOULD YOU EXPLAIN RACING AT TALLADEGA TO THOSE WHO MAY NOT KNOW MUCH ABOUT THE SPORT?
"I would explain it like getting on a two or three-lane highway and you get at the rear of the pack and have cars in every lane set their cruise on 55 miles and hour. Have 20 cars in front of you and you set your car at 60 miles an hour and then have to not hit the brake and see if you can figure out your way to get through there to the front without hitting anybody and have only a couple of miles to do it. That's what Talladega is like. It's just a huge chess game. The guys in the back are running faster than the guys in the front because of the way the draft works, and you've just got to make your moves at the right time and pick your opening. If you make a wrong move, you've got to start all over again and try it again. It's a very, very stressful race mentally and physically. Usually I'm pretty happy when I see the checkered flag at Talladega. If I'm able to see it, I'm gonna call it a really, really good day."
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU COULD BE A RACE CAR DRIVER?
"I don't know if I've realized it yet (laughing). I've been racing since I was seven years old and I'm 28 now, so I've been doing some type of racing for 21 years. You know how kids are. We all have our heroes growing up and wishes of what we want to be. I always wished I could be a race car driver because my brother did it, I had three uncles that did it and my dad did it. I came from a racing family, but I think I realized I could do it for a living was in 1995 when I started getting some calls from some Busch car owners. They were gonna give me a chance to do this or do that and it was like, 'Wow, maybe I am in the right situation or the right position to do this as a professional.' It just kind of hit me all in one day. I looked like a kid in the candy store because I was so excited that I could actually do this for a living and have fun doing it. I was 20 years old and it kind of hit me from both sides and I've been overwhelmed ever since."
DO YOU HAVE TO ANTICIPATE WHERE OPENINGS ARE AT TALLADEGA?
"You hit it right on the head. You've really got to anticipate when you think a hole is gonna open up and who has a run and who doesn't, so those holes will open up. You almost have to kind of play the moves in your head before you actually make the move - if you think it's gonna work or not. There's a big trust factor with your spotter also. He can let you know what line is moving and what's not. What's clear and what's not. When I first started in NASCAR Winston Cup racing, I had a spotter that I really didn't know that well, so by the time he told me the outside lane was clear and by the time I double-checked him and looked, the hole was closed up so it doesn't really work that way. With the spotter I've got now, when he says it's clear, I know it's clear and I'm gonna go ahead and move up or down, whatever the case may be. You kind of play it out ahead of time and by the time you make the move and see it in your head, hopefully the hole will be there and you can take advantage of it."
IS THAT HOW ACCIDENTS HAPPEN - A GUY MAKES A MOVE A SPLIT-SECOND TOO LATE?
"Yeah. I think some drivers panic, especially when it's getting near the end of the race where you're setting up for your last pit stop and you need to have good track position. You think if you get hung out to dry that you're gonna fall all the way to the rear and you don't want to do that that close to the end of the race, so guys panic and try to muscle their way down. You're putting your life and your finishing order on somebody else. You're hoping that they let off and try to be the smart one. When you put your scenario in somebody else's hands, it doesn't always work out that way. Some drivers do that and some get away with it and some don't. That's why a lot of the wrecks are caused, but, again, it's hard to tell 43 human beings to be perfect for three hours - to run that many inches close to each other for so long. That makes it tough, but I guess that's why the fans love the excitement of going to Talladega."