Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, and Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, are the top two qualifiers for tomorrow's Aaron's 499. Sadler will start third while Rudd will take the green flag...
Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, and Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus, are the top two qualifiers for tomorrow's Aaron's 499. Sadler will start third while Rudd will take the green flag from the seventh position and both spoke about their expectations on Saturday morning at Talladega Superspeedway.
ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus
THE LAST COUPLE OF TIMES YOU'VE BEEN HERE YOU'VE HAD A TOUGH TIME KEEPING THE WHEELS ON THE GROUND. WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK THIS TIME? "I just want to survive. My guys have given me a great race car. We brought a brand new car here and it's really good in the wind tunnel. We qualified good and we're pretty upbeat. We think we've got a lot of momentum on our side this year and we just want to get through this race. It's a wild card race. A lot of stuff happens that you get caught up in a lot of other people's things and we just want to make it through there. I'm getting tired of testing NASCAR's safety rules, so I just want to kind of make it to the checkered flag and hopefully have a good finish."
WHAT DOES YOUR STARTING POSITION DO FOR YOU? "We get a good pit selection and hopefully stay ahead of the game for at least the first quarter of the race until things get shuffled up. A lot of things can happen here at the beginning of the race with people being impatient and trying to get to the front, so I'm gonna try to stay ahead of the wreck if it happens and maybe find some drafting partners up there that are good. I know we're around some really good race cars. It looks like the 24 and the 29 and the 10 and the 12 - cars like that - so maybe try to find some drafting partners up in that area and see who works good so towards the end of the race you kind of know who to work with."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE DEI SURGE RIGHT NOW? THEY GOT OFF TO A SLOW START. "I think it's what they're supposed to do. Anytime you put new people together it's gonna take a while to jell. I don't care what the experience level is each driver has their own definition of what too loose is or what too tight is, and you can't just put people together for the first time expecting that they'll be able to win races off the bat. I think Dale and Pete are getting more acquainted with each other, and I think Tony, Jr. and Michael are getting more acquainted with each other and they're just gonna get better and better. DEI is too good of a corporation for them to struggle like they've struggled the first four or five races, so I think they definitely are on-coming. There are only so many pieces of the pie, so all of the rest of the teams have to keep stepping up their game also."
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN THEY STRUGGLED AT THE START OF THE YEAR? "Somebody said a stat like after four races a person that is such-and-such in points has never made it to the top 10 by race 26 and I looked them straight in the eye and said, 'He'll be in the top 10 before race 10,' and it looks like it's gonna be that way. I mean, they're just too good of a race team and you never cross them out no matter what. They've been in the top 10 a lot the last few years and had a chance to win a championship or two and have been close, so you just don't take a driver like that and start marking him off the list. That's not a good idea, so we just have to keep doing what we need to do and that's seeing every checkered flag. If we have a bad weekend we finish 11th or 12th and if we can keep doing that, we should be fine and hopefully be one of those top 10 teams."
WHO IS THE TEAM TO BEAT THIS TIME AROUND AT TALLADEGA? "I still think it's the 24, the 15 and the 8. They're the three teams that I think everybody is gonna have their eye on. Those are the three teams everybody is gonna be trying to maybe practice with, if we get practice, or race with in the race to see what they've got. Jeff has had great success here the last four races and who can argue with Dale Jr's. success here already in his young career. So they're the three guys that are gonna be fast. They just have something figured out. They know how to draft. Their teams have got the cowls and everything figured out where they know how to suck up and push and move and they've just got their stuff together right now."
RYR HAS ALWAYS BEEN PROUD OF IT'S ENGINE PROGRAM, SO DOYOU FEEL PRESSURE HERE TO DO WELL BECAUSE OF THAT? "I know my motor is just as good as anybody's in the whole garage. I'd put it up against anybody on the chassis dyno, so I know we've got plenty of motor. I know Todd is great on restrictor plate races. He's had a lot of success with DJ and the 88, and we've had some fast cars since he's become my crew chief. I just have to keep trying to do better. It seems like I do really good at Daytona, but I've struggled here at Talladega so maybe I need to change my game plan a little bit or change my strategy and hopefully get some better results. Yeah, there's a lot of pressure on us. Doug Yates really wants to run good down here - get poles and win races. All of the teams - not only Yates but Roush - are trying to do that for him so we'll see what happens."
YOU TALKED ABOUT SURVIVING ON THE TRACK WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT SURVIVING THE STORM IN YOUR MOTORCOACH LAST NIGHT? "That was crazy. It definitely woke me up. I'm a pretty light sleeper anyway and I couldn't believe all the steady flashing of lightning and the thunder. I felt sorry for the fans. I saw a bunch of tents and stuff in the infield yesterday and I just hope nobody got flooded out of anything. They're so committed to being at the race track, but I've never seen that many lightning flashes at one time and that loud and that heavy of a rain. It was definitely a night to just kind of sit up and wait until it passed over."
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus
FIRST OF ALL, HOW DID YOU WEATHER THE STORM EARLY THIS MORNING? "It didn't come through until about 5:15 and we had plenty of warnings about it. They did a good job with the weather of predicting it, so we knew it was coming but it still gets your attention when the sirens are going off because where are you gonna go? The tunnel is probably the only place you could ever go if you did have a tornado, but it was really just a lot of rain and not as much wind as I thought there was gonna be."
CAN YOU SYMPATHIZE WITH THE FANS WHO ARE CAMPING OUT? "Oh yeah. I feel bad for those guys. It was a little before sun-up and there was a lot of rain in a short period of time, so I couldn't imagine being out there in a tent."
WOULD IT BE A BAD THING IF THERE WAS NO PRACTICE TODAY? "I don't think it's a big deal now. We've run this set of rules enough to know what to do to your race cars and, at least in our situation, this car has been raced before. It has some history on it so it wouldn't really be a huge deal if we didn't get a chance to run it. We'll wait and see how it goes, but I guess we'll get 500 miles of drafting practice tomorrow."
HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR CAR? "We've got a really good race car, it's just being at the right place at the right time. Obviously, I haven't figured out how to time it just right. If it's a situation where no one is a dominant car and everybody has to have the draft to move forward, then it's just a case of being in the right place at the right time. You're gonna get to the front and you're gonna get bounced back. If you can get smart enough and figure out how to time it so that you end up at the front before they have a chance to jump you and move you to the back, you'll have a chance at winning."
DO DRIVERS PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT MAKE OF CAR IS AROUND THEM? "I really can't say how it would be now because I don't really have a teammate to work with, but my mindset depends on the situation. If I'm in fifth and we've got 10 laps to go and I want to be in the lead, but a pack starts coming around you on the outside and you see that line moving, then you have to make a decision. I might try to time it where I can jump in front of that line and then I'll be the lead car and they'll push me to the front. To me, those are the decisions that you have to make. Maybe I'm sitting third or fifth all day long the outside line never moved, but now I'm looking and it's coming. It's not moving fast, but it's creeping. Here it is with 10 laps to go and they're gaining a spot per lap and that's when I have to make a decision to either time it and jump in front of those guys or do I stay put thinking the inside line will eventually work out and get me to the front. Those are the decisions you end up making. Sometimes you make the right ones and sometimes you make the wrong ones."