NASCAR Media Conference
June 5, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference. We are joined by Elliott Sadler for Joe Gibbs Racing. Sadler won the second NASCAR Nationwide Series race held at Iowa Speedway last season and is seventh in the current championship standings.
Elliott, busy couple days on deck for you before climbing in the car at Iowa for the first practice. Tell us what makes the first standalone of the season so exciting.
ELLIOTT SADLER: I tell you, it's cool to be here in Nashville. Austin Dillon is with me. Actually had to get on stage and sing in front of a bunch of strangers. I don't know, I was pretty admired about their courage to be able to do that.
Going to the CMT awards tonight. I'm a country music fan and have some friends in the business. To be able to go to my first awards show tonight is pretty special, pretty cool. Be a part of the CMA fest, then off to Iowa, which has been an extremely great racetrack for us.
We're looking forward to going out there and putting on a good show and being competitive and hopefully getting things back on track where they need to be.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now go to the media for questions for Elliott Sadler.
Q. Just looking at your record from Iowa, I don't think you've finished outside the top five there. Is there any particular reason that you've really adapted to that track so well?
ELLIOTT SADLER: You know what's funny about that question is, before I ever went to Iowa, everybody said, It's just like Richmond.
I'm like, Oh, man. If you look at my statistics, Richmond is not my best track.
When we got to Iowa, to me it's nothing at all like Richmond. It adapted to my driving style. But we had a good car there from Childress the last two years I've been there. Going for my fourth pole in a row this weekend.
It's one of those tracks. It's hard to explain. Certain drivers can tell you certain tracks are better for them, what they feel in a car, how they attack a racetrack, the corners. Some tracks are better than others for particular drivers.
To me, Iowa is probably my best track. I would say that and Bristol are my two best tracks. Mentally, as I show up, I know where I want to be on the track, where I need to be on the gas, on the brake, how my car needs to feel in practice to be in the race. It is a really good track to me.
That being said, we need to go there and have a great, competitive weekend. But I can't think of another track on the schedule coming off the weekend we had at Dover that I'd rather go to than Iowa. I mean that sincerely, not because we're talking about it, but because of the record I have there the last two years. I really feel comfortable going to that track and being successful.
Q. Coming off of your Dover finish, you couldn't have picked a better track to be going to. Were you surprised at Dover?
ELLIOTT SADLER: You know, we were a little caught off guard at Dover. We ran well at Darlington, some of the other tracks. Early in the year, we felt really good about that particular setup as far as intermediate tracks and stuff were concerned.
We were caught off guard at Dover. We struggled the entire weekend, through practice, qualifying and the race. We really have dug ourselves a pretty big hole here. We are a lot of points behind, seventh in the points. Honestly, points don't mean a hill of beans to me right now. We need to run better, be more competitive on a weekly basis.
I think going to Iowa, we can get some good optimism going with our race team, get some good direction going. We can go there and be competitive and run good. That's what our team needs right now, to kind of get back on the ball, get back in the game. I can't think of a better place to go.
Q. A little bit about your schedule. You're going from the short course in Iowa to the superspeedway at Michigan International Speedway. How do you adjust to each track each week? What are the changes from week‑to‑week in how you prepare?
ELLIOTT SADLER: That's what's so great about our sport. We race on something different each and every week. What I've learned through my experience in the sport is try to be mentally prepared as much as I can before I get to the track.
What I mean by that is this. Before going to Iowa this week, I've already looked at all of my notes from last year. I always make notes after a race weekend. I say, Okay, my car did this in practice, this is what we fought in the race, this is how good my car was in the race, these are things I need to do better, these are things I feel like I'm pretty good at.
You go to Iowa and race.
To get ready for Michigan next week, I'll do the same thing, look through my Michigan notes. This is what we fought during practice, during the race, this is what we need to do better, mentally train yourself for that particular racetrack.
When I make the first lap on the track at Michigan, I mentally already know what I need to be feeling, what I fought here in the past, the feeling I need to have here to be successful so you're not really caught off guard.
I think a lot of guys do that, get themselves mentally prepared.
If I can't remember anything at all, I'll go on the Internet and watch the race from last year, YouTube it, see what happened, so I know where I need to be fast, where passes are made, I kind of go from there. That's how I mentally get ready for each and every week being there's a different style of racetrack seems like each and every weekend we go to.
Q. What do you like about Michigan and what are some of the challenges drivers face there?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I tell you, I love the old Michigan Speedway. Before they repaved it, it was so much race at that track. Now that it's repaved, it's very fast, has a lot of grip. It's kind of a one‑groove racetrack right now. Hopefully it will open up some, as the asphalt cures a little bit, ages a little bit, it will get back to that slick Michigan racetrack where you're sliding around a lot. Very fast. Track position is very important. Fuel mileage is very important at that racetrack.
But right now it's very fast. You have to make sure your car is comfortable in the draft. Do a lot of drafting there, side drafting, things like that.
Michigan now is a totally different track to what it was two years ago.
Q. Could you reflect on your victory last year at Chicagoland. I know you were very sick, overcame a lot to get that win there.
ELLIOTT SADLER: Yeah, wow, was I sick in Chicago. Me and my wife, a couple of my friends and their wives, always go to Chicago early, stay in the city, do some things. I remember having to lay in my bed. My doctor actually came with me to that race. I remember laying in the bed for two straight days, couldn't move, couldn't eat anything. Lost a lot of weight. Taking IVs. People that know me know I hate needles more than anything in the world.
From a sick side, I was very fortunate that my doctor came with me to Chicago and took care of me for a couple days to get my body back close to being ready when the race started. Also some of my best friends had learned tragic news the night before the race, some of their best friends' son had gotten killed in a boating accident.
Not only being sick, but also really heavy hearts. I'm from a very small town where everybody leans on everybody. When the boating accident happened, they lost their son's life the night before the race, I remember all of us sitting around the dinner table bawling and crying. It was a tough night in Chicago.
For us to come out and win the next day with heavy hearts, not feeling good, was probably the best win I've had in a long, long time, just because we were going through so much.
It was very important for me to be able to get that win. It was cool to make that happen and pulling it off.
Q. What is it about that track that suits your style?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Last year I was really good on mile‑and‑a‑half's. We had a really good program with RCR on the mile‑and‑a‑half's. Felt fast on all the tracks we went to. Had a late green‑white‑checkered restart that made it very interesting. We were leading, got a good restart, was able to pull it off.
Last year on the mile‑and‑a‑half's, we felt confident about our program, and it showed at places like Chicago.
Q. Do you believe in momentum strongly and how does that affect your team going forward? How do you get it when it slips away?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, I'm going to be honest with you. Every single person that's involved in any type of professional sport believes in momentum. You can describe momentum in so many different ways, depending on what sport you're talking about.
Momentum in racing means that you and your race team are on the same page, you're running good. The driver and the crew chief are on the same page. You're finishing each other's sentences. You just feel like you have momentum.
When you show up to the track, you have 100% confidence that whatever your car's doing, whatever things you're fighting as far as handling is concerned, you're going to get it fixed and you're going to make the right adjustments during the race. That's called momentum in racing.
And, yes, that's a big part of how you run on Sundays. If you don't have any momentum, you're second‑guessing a lot of the decisions you're making, you're not sure how your car needs to feel like, you're questioning the setup you're running, not clear on the communication, you should do a better job, use different words, different terminology.
When it comes to running in the Nationwide Series, we have 21 weekends in a row that we're racing. Momentum is very important and it's a big part of the success that you're having. Your team needs to have momentum, optimism, confidence moving in the right direction.
Q. With some interesting racetracks coming up in the next five to seven weeks in the Nationwide Series, how do you balance the pressure moments that a driver needs to run well to get up into the points for the last half of the season?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Hey, man, I love it. The more different the racetracks we race on, the better it is. We don't want to race on the same racetracks every single week, race on the same style of tracks every single week.
The way we're switching it up in the meaty part of the schedule, road courses in there, superspeedways, this means the driver has to bring your best week in, week out. You have to adapt to a particular racing surface that particular weekend.
I like it. I think it's a great part of the schedule. Golf has its moving day. I think in racing, this part of the schedule, certain drivers get hot in the summertime, end of June, July, all things like that, trying to make moves, there's so many different styles of racetracks we'll be on in the next seven, eight races. That makes it fun and it makes it hard. That's a big part of the racing schedule.
I think it's a good job done by the people that put the schedule out, to be honest with you.
THE MODERATOR: That's all the time we have for today. We thank you for your time. Best of luck in Iowa this weekend.
ELLIOTT SADLER: Guys, thank you so much for having me. Y'all have a good one.
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