Sawyer, Barbasol team find consistency By Shawn A. Akers BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Jan. 6, 1999) Consistency had almost always escaped Elton Sawyer in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division. In nine previous full-time ...
Sawyer, Barbasol team find consistency By Shawn A. Akers
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Jan. 6, 1999) Consistency had almost always escaped Elton Sawyer in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division. In nine previous full-time seasons in the series, that word had been a precious commodity for the Virginia native. Sawyer may just have found it 1998, and that certainly bodes well for his Akins-Sutton Motorsports race team in the future. The driver of the No. 38 Barbasol Ford certainly had his ups and downs this past season, but not once did he finish worse than 38th during a race, and he kept the race car on the track and had only four DNFs during the entire year. That, and four top-five and ten top-10 finishes, translated into Sawyer's best career finish in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings, fifth. His previous best finish was eighth, accomplished in 1997. That means he'll be on stage this week at the NASCAR Busch Series post-season awards banquet. It's the third time during his career he's accomplished that. "We certainly didn't burn up the race track this year, but we had a pretty decent year with the Barbasol Ford," Sawyer said. "All of the guys at the shop and at the track worked very hard, and we're very pleased we could finish in the top-five in the points. I think we were able to achieve some consistency that we hadn't had in the past, and that's why we're where we're at right now." One thing that has weighed heavy on Sawyer's mind in the past has been the status of his wife's career, but that worry was put to rest in '98. Patty Moise had a full-time ride with Michael Waltrip, in the No. 14 Rhodes Furniture Ford. After a slow start in the first three races of the year, Sawyer earned his first top-10 in the BellSouth Mobility/Opryland 320 at Nashville in March. His first top-five effort, a fourth-place run, came in the Moore's Snacks 250 at Bristol in April. Solid runs at Talladega, Charlotte and Dover would follow, as well as a fourth-place effort in the inaugural race at Pikes Peak and an 11th-place run at Watkins Glen. Then came Milwaukee, which perhaps provided Sawyer with his best opportunity to get to Victory Lane in 1998. He won the Bud Pole for the Diehard 250 at The Milwaukee Mile, but that was taken away from him when NASCAR discovered a violation surrounding his fuel during qualifying. He was forced to go to the back of the field for the beginning of the race, but after starting 41st, he stayed patient, methodically made his way toward the front and wound up finishing second behind a dominating Dale Earnhardt Jr. The runner-up finish was Sawyer's best of the 1998 season. "We came out here today and showed what we're really made out of," Sawyer said after the race. "It was a great effort. I mean, we had a good car. When you have to pass as many cars as we had to pass and then get out there to the 3 car (Earnhardt) and have enough to race him -- I felt like we did -- but I stepped up a little bit, and he just stepped up a little more." Sawyer said he felt terrible about the rules infraction situation, knowing that he'd have to make up a lot of ground during the race. "What happened (after qualifying) was just kind of a fluke deal," Sawyer said. "It was a bad situation. It was embarrassing for me and for my race team and for our sponsors." Sawyer turned in solid runs Indianapolis (8th), Michigan (8th) and Darlington (12th) before coming to Dover for the MBNA Gold 200 in mid-September. A third-place run there solidified his chances of cracking the top-five in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings. Sawyer still hasn't posted a victory since the summer of 1994, when he earned his only career NASCAR Busch Series win, at Myrtle Beach. But Sawyer feels he and his team are getting closer to making a return trip to Victory Lane. Next season, Sawyer will be switching numbers and sponsors, but not teams. He'll drive the No. 98 Lysol Ford for Akins-Sutton Motorsports, with Glenn Allen as his teammate in the No. 38 Barbasol Ford.
Source: NASCAR Online