Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, will look to make it two straight wins at Texas Motor Speedway in Sunday's Samsung/RadioShack 500. Sadler spoke about his last-lap duel with Kasey Kahne a year ago, in addition to ...
Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, will look to make it two straight wins at Texas Motor Speedway in Sunday's Samsung/RadioShack 500. Sadler spoke about his last-lap duel with Kasey Kahne a year ago, in addition to preparations for this year's event before practice.
ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT FINISH A YEAR AGO? "It was way too close. It was a great finish. I'm just glad I was on the good end and not on Kasey's end. I would have been really, really heartbroken to lose by that much, especially going for my first win. So to win by just that little much after 500 miles of racing and to give M&M's their first win in a big market and a big race like that was a great, great feeling, especially that early in the season."
WHY WAS IT WAY TOO CLOSE? "I want to win a race by a half-a-lap one time. It seems like it would be a whole lot easier to run the last five or six laps. It seems like every race we've won there has been somebody closing down on us or you don't know until the last lap who is gonna win. I'd like one of those easy wins one time when you've got about a half-a-lap on everyone."
HOW STRONG ARE YOU GUYS NOW COMPARED TO A YEAR AGO? "I think we're pretty good. I think we've really worked on our short-track program a lot. Last year that was our Achilles heel. This year we scored more points on both short tracks at Martinsville and Bristol than any other race team, so we think we've closed those valleys up. We came in here and tested a week ago because we didn't run in Atlanta like we thought we should. I think we learned some things about our aero program and the cars and what we need to do on these mile-and-a-halves, so I think our program is really strong. We're jelling together. We've got a lot of momentum. Everybody is getting along - a lot of important things that a race team needs happen to run good week in and week out."
YOU'RE THIRD IN POINTS, BUT IT SEEMS YOU'VE HAD A QUIET YEAR? "I heard that all last year that nobody really noticed us and we stayed in the top 10 all season long. That's cool. If people want to write about us, they can. If they don't, that's cool too. We're gonna go out and do the best we can, but I honestly think the day Todd Parrott came back and became our crew chief instantly made us a top 10 race team, and I think that's showing. I mean, how can you argue with the statistics we've put up over the last forty-some races. I think we've been a great, great race team and I think we're gonna continue to be a part of this chase all year long. We're gonna slip up and win a race or two, hopefully, but as long as we're consistent like I think we're gonna be we should be fine."
WHAT DOES TODD BRING? "Just experience. He's been there, done that. He's been in every type of racing situation you can be in. He keeps so many notes. He knows what the track is gonna do on Sunday during the length of a race. I think he learned so much from Dale Jarrett, they learned from each other. They won so many races and he's won a championship. He understands how to get it done. He never even has to open mouth. You can just tell how successful he is. He's the winningest active crew chief in the garage right now and I would love to give him his second championship with a different driver. I don't think many people have done that in NASCAR history, so that would be a great gift to give him this year."
HOW HAS HE MADE YOU A BETTER DRIVER? "He's made me a patient driver and he's made me mature one heck of a lot over the last year-and-a-half. I understand how my car needs to feel in traffic, how it needs to feel on Saturday to be good on Sunday. I used to just worry about how fast we're gonna go and not really worried about the long run, not worried about saving your tires, not worried about winning the race and not winning the race, but he has so much experience at that. I guess working with Dale he knows so much about it. They both together, I think, have made me a lot better race car driver than I ever thought I would be."
HOW COOL WOULD IT BE TO WIN AT RICHMOND IN A FEW WEEKS? "I would love to win there. I don't know, they might tear the grandstands down if we won at Richmond (laughing), but that would be a great place to win at. We're gonna go up there and test and see if we can get our program a little bit better there, but we've done so much off-season testing at Lakeland and place like that to get our short track program better and it showed. To get two top-10s the last two weeks is showing that we're going in the right direction. Hopefully, when we get to Richmond, when we get to Phoenix, when we get to New Hampshire - places that play a big part of how we're gonna run during the chase - we'll be a lot better."
ARE YOU AS GOOD THIS WEEK AS YOU WERE THIS WEEK A YEAR AGO? "I think we're better this week than what we were this week a year ago because I think last year at the beginning of the season we were still all new working with each other. Todd and I were a little new. Our engineering department was new and we were still trying to feel each other out. Now we know when I make the first lap on the race track, we know what direction we need to go in. So I think as a team we're definitely better. Our pit crew is better this time of year than what it was last year. My experience, I think I've got more experience than what I had a year ago. I've got more confidence. Last year we were still kind of reaching in the dark every once in a while to try to make things work and I think this year we kind of know what pieces of the puzzle to put together to make it work."
IS IT MORE PRESSURE TO DEFEND A RACE WIN? "I don't think it's more pressure I think it's more fun. Who would not want to come in as defending champ of a race? I want to be the first two-time winner at Texas just like all the winners want to be and that's why we came here and tested. I've been here twice. I came here for the Goodyear tire test and we went to Atlanta and were not happy, so Todd decided to come back with a brand new car and try that, and we feel like we've crossed all our T's and dotted all of our I's. This is an important race for us. I think when we sat on the pole at Bristol it kind of gave us a kick start and that good things can happen to you at the beginning of the season. We knew how much this win meant to us last year and what it meant to our season. We really wanted to come back and have a strong showing here at Texas and to move up from fifth into third in the points, to come off one of my best finishes ever at Martinsville, to come back to a place I just won at, we have a lot of momentum on our side and we just want to keep it going."
IT'S GOOD TO COME BACK TO A PLACE YOU HAVE SUCCESS AT ISN'T IT? "Yeah, exactly. And we've got a really good race car for Phoenix. I can't wait until we go there, and then we've got Darlington coming up and I really like that place, and Talladega. The list goes on and on of some tracks that we really think we can run good at, and I want to run good before we get to Richmond. I want to keep the momentum up on our race team before we get there because that's a very important race for our whole team and we want to make sure everything is going good when we get there."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE 38 TEAM IS GETTING THE RESPECT IT DESERVES? "I think we're all respecting each other. There are a lot of hot teams out here right now. I definitely think we're a top-10 team. Are we a championship team yet? I don't think so. I think we need to get a little bit better to get with the 48 and them, but a lot of that is the driver. I haven't been in this situation much, so I have to learn how to become a championship contending driver. Know when to race. Try to win races and get in those positions more often and when I become a better driver at winning races and trying to contend for a championship, then we'll become a championship contending team."
IS IT COMFORTING COMING TO A PLACE WHERE YOU'VE WON? "It's comforting for me because I try to explain it to people like this. Some golfers go to certain golf courses and it fits their swing or their golf game better. This track fits my driving style. I love this place. I know when I leave pit road for the first lap where I need to be on the track, how much throttle I need to have, how much brake - the whole nine yards - and I have a sense of comfort here. I'm gonna be very disappointed if we qualify outside the top five today. I feel that strong about my knowledge of this track and my team's success here. So I have a lot of comfort coming to this track, probably more here than anywhere else we go."
YOU'RE THIRD IN POINTS. HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT? "It's very important. I love seeing my guys parking up here this close to the front. It makes them happy and gets them excited. It's still very close though. I think between third and seventh there aren't many points at all, so we know we can't slip. If we just continue doing the things we've done all season and that's see every checkered flag. If we've got a ninth-place car, finish ninth. If we've got an eight-place car, whatever. Don't try to make something out of nothing that we have. If we just keep being consistent, we should be in great shape."
HAVE THE TWO WEEKS AT SHORT TRACKS GIVEN TEAMS A CHANCE TO CATCH UP TO ROUSH AND HENDRICK ON THE SPEEDWAYS? "That's a great question. They definitely have set the pace on the aero tracks. With the two weeks off that's why we decided to come test here to see if we can close that gap a little bit. We feel like I know how to get around this place and Todd has had a couple of wins here as a crew chief. This would be a great place for us to come and test aero stuff at and get our mile-and-a-half program up to par because we feel like we've got a lot of good notes here. So that's why we decided to come test the week of Martinsville and see what we've got, and I think we learned a lot. I think we have closed that gap, so we pretty much brought our Atlanta car here and worked on it and made it better and that's what we needed to do."
CAN A NON-ROUSH OR HENDRICK CAR WIN THIS WEEKEND? "I hope we can. This is a gut-check race for us for that. We know those guys are gonna be the ones to beat and if we can go out there and be competitive with them this weekend, we know we've closed that gap."
DOES IT WORRY YOU AT ALL THAT THE AERO IS DIFFERENT? "I've got such a great engineering department that we pretty much figured that out. We kind of put that into play and ran all the similarity programs that we can to compensate for the spoiler and for the Goodyears and things like that. I think we should be in good shape. No, we don't have the same setup that we won here with last year or had the year before, but we think we've got a good balance on it. We kind of switched everything over to go with this package and we should be good."
IS TEXAS A MAJOR STOP ON THE CIRCUIT NOW? "I think it is. I think it's the third-highest paying race that we race at. I think it's the second-most in fans that show up for a race. I mean, why wouldn't it be a major? It's got all the elements of a major event and a lot of teams love coming here. When you get to perform in front of over 200,000 people, I think that's considered to be a major part of what we do."
HAS THE BUSCH CAR HELPED OR HURT YOU? "It's good for me. The Busch car helps me learn about what the track is gonna do on Saturday to kind of help us for Sunday. We can try different air pressure things for these new Goodyears and see if they're good or bad or what have you. I like the Busch races. I've qualified better at the Cup races when I've run the Busch car, so we'll see. Hopefully it will help me again this weekend."
THE FIRST COUPLE OF YEARS AT THIS PLACE DRIVER HOWLED ABOUT THE TRACK. HOW HAVE YOU FELT ABOUT IT THROUGH THE YEARS? "I just always like it. Actually, I think I was the first-ever race car on here when I brought my Busch car down here in 1997 with Diamond Ridge. I think we were the first-ever car to test here. I think the guys just weren't used to such a fast race track. I think they had it pictured in their head that this was another Charlotte and another Atlanta, but when they got here the straightaways were a little bit shorter, the curves were a little bit longer and it was just a lot faster race track. I think that caught everybody off guard. When you have new asphalt we're gonna run single-file, that's just the way it is, but now this track has aged. I think you're gonna see two or two-and-a-half grooves this weekend. We were already working in a second groove at practice yesterday in the Busch cars. This track is gonna get better and better each and every year the more it ages."
HAVE THE TRANSITIONS CHANGED OR IS EVERYBODY JUST USED TO IT? "I think everybody has gotten used to it. Everybody has more downforce and learning how to use that downforce to their advantage. I think the cars have gotten better and the drivers have gotten better at this track. You can always nit-pick a track to death, especially your first time there if you've never seen it before, but once you get used to it, it's all the same. I think we showed last year some great racing side-by-side and I think we're gonna see it again this year."