NASCAR Media Conference
August 30, 2005
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. We thank you for bearing with us. Welcome to the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference. Just some quick housekeeping notes as we head back to California. This week's NEXTEL Wake-Up Call will take place on Friday, September 2nd, at 11:30 a.m. in the driver interview area with guest Jimmie Johnson. Now today we're joined by Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M Robert Yates Racing Ford. Elliott right now is testing in Richmond, and he just told me it was very hot there today. I'm sure you'll want to talk to him about that. After last weekend's Sharpie 500, Elliott is 13th in the 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup series points standings, a mere 35 points out of the top 10 and well within striking distance to make the 2005 Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup. This year Elliott has two poles, including one at the Brickyard. He also has nine top-10 finishes. Elliott has a great history in NASCAR competition. Last year he participated in the inaugural Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup finishing ninth. He has three wins in the Nextel Cup Series and five in the Busch Series. Elliott, you won last year at this race in California, the first one they ever had under the lights. And then this past February, you finished eighth. What about California works so well for you and the 38 team?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, I'm a very lucky man to get to drive for Robert Yates Racing who always has a lot of horsepower and seems like every time we go to a big two-mile track, we're going to be in the hunt just because of that one factor. Todd and the guys have just got a nice setup figured out for that place, to win there last year. The inaugural race on Labor Day was very special to me and I think the whole team. It kind of solidified our spot in the Chase for the Cup.
We're looking forward to going back. I'm very anxious to get back to California. We're taking our best car in the shop, the one I had at Indy. We've been saving it ever since Indy to take it to California. I can't wait to get there actually.
THE MODERATOR: Great. Now we're going to open it up to questions from our callers.
Q. You know where you are in the standings. I don't have to go through the numbers. With two races left, what are the emotions of Elliott Sadler today?
ELLIOTT SADLER: You know what, my emotions are really good. I sat down and had a great meeting with my team yesterday. We're very happy the way we've been running. We have just decided, you know, we can't do anything about the luck, about the problems we've had three or four of the last races. I mean just seems like anything bad that can happen to us can happen. But we're running good when that happens. It's in our court. The ball is in our court to make the Chase. We're going to a track that I've won at before and finish in the Top 10 in the spring. And we've finish Top 10 at Richmond also in the spring. The ball's in our court. All we have to do is go and try to win each race and not worry about the points, forget them, and just let them fall where they may. We're up here testing today in Richmond with my Busch car because we learned so much from it last time here. We're making some headway. I'm excited about the next two weeks. I feel like we're at an advantage because we have nothing to lose. We're going to race hard and we're going to go from there.
Q. Five races ago you were ninth in points. I had a driver in Nextel Cup once tell me that as quick as you lose points in this day and time, you can gain points. Is that part of your attitude?
ELLIOTT SADLER: It is, because we've been running good, and if we were sitting here running 25th every weekend, I'd say, you know what, we might not make it, or this might happen or that might happen. But we're running sixth at Indy. Have a tire problem. Running eighth at Michigan running Kyle Busch. I'm running second at Bristol when I get tangled up with a lap car. You know, we're running good enough to make the Chase. If we get those three situations back, we're well in the Chase right now with a little bit of a cushion. But we don't have that. At least we can look at each other and say we've been running good, we've been running in the top 10 every week. We're coming to two racetracks that the 38 car usually runs good at. We're pretty optimistic. All we got to do is just go through the motions, get our cars comfortable, and we're going to let the points take care of theirselves.
Q. Could California come at a better time?
ELLIOTT SADLER: No. I don't think Bristol could have come at a better time either. I told everybody that last weekend at Bristol. It was the perfect race schedule for me at that time. That's a place I got a lot of confidence at, we're able to lead a lap, should have finished second, had problems. But I gained a lot of confidence back in my driving and my team at Bristol. The car we're taking to California I think is one of the best race cars I've ever sat in, when I had it at Indy when we sat at the pole box so much, led a lot of that race. I'm glad California is coming. It's going to be a good race for us. Like I said, points is not even going to come out of our mouth. It hasn't since we talked about it yesterday. You know, all we got to do is go win the race. It's plain and simple. If we go and try to win that race and leave everything else alone, points will take care of theirselves.
Q. Couple of guys you're racing for a berth in the Chase, Jeff Gordon, and Matt Kenseth. What kind of pressure is there here the next couple of weeks to try to get in racing against those guys?
ELLIOTT SADLER: It's fun, isn't it (laughter)? Not enough pieces of pie. I think it's going to be great. I love racing against Jeff Gordon. I love racing against Matt Kenseth. They're all former champions. So is Darryl Jarrett. We got a lot of great names that's on the outside looking in. A lot of great race drivers on the inside that are really becoming the hunted. It's going to be fun. It should be interesting. I hope the fans will enjoy it. But it's a challenge to me. Hey, I know Jeff Gordon is the best there is. He's four-time champion. If we can go out there and outrun him two weeks in a row, we're in the Chase, he's not. That's the attitude we've got going to California.
Q. Is getting in the Chase more difficult than you guys envision when the format was invented?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Yeah. But I learned this last year. I learned so much as far as being part of the Chase. It's by far the hardest thing I've ever been a part of. As long as Mark Martin has been racing, what he's been through, when he says it's the hardest thing he's ever done last year, how frustrating it really is. It's a frustrating deal because it's always a sense of urgency because it seems like there's not much time left before you -- you don't have a lot of time to make up the points you may lose any given weekend. It's tough. It's a lot of sleepless nights. But, hey, I really love the points format. I'm glad they come up with it. It adds a lot of spunk to the sport. I think it's neat. I think fans should be very excited about the next two weeks that's coming because who knows what's going to happen in the next two weeks to see who gets in the Chase and who doesn't.
Q. I was listening to you and DJ after DJ's wreck at Bristol with Newman. How's his attitude right now? What did you see happen or didn't happen? How is DJ? Did he talk to Newman?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I don't know if Dale has talked to Ryan or not. I think Dale is just upset that we're all trying to race to get into the Chase, and he's not going to take it any more. I'm not either. We've had a couple guys run over us this year. We're going to stand our ground. You know, we're not going to take it any more. We're tired of being the nice guys, try to race clean. We race for a very clean owner who wants to do things the right way. Dale is a great gentleman and a champion in this sport. Probably has more integrity than anybody else in the sport. But you can't let all these guys run over you. They're going to take advantage of you, think they can do it every time. Dale just decided he had enough was getting tired of getting run over by these young guys. He just wanted to set an example that he's not going to take it any more. I think that's what you got to do. You got to defend yourself. I mean, some guys will run over you each and every week, just get there on TV with a little smile and say they're sorry like everything's okay. You know, that doesn't stand any more. I think you got to stand your ground, especially when it comes down to the Chase and the points are so valuable. You can't let people do that to you.
Q. Can you talk about your test, how it's going, the chances you see for Richmond.
ELLIOTT SADLER: Hey, I'm looking forward to Richmond. We finished second. I had two career nights here in Richmond in May, finishing second in the Busch car, which is my best ever career finish. I think we finished eighth or ninth in the Cup car, my best ever finish. We ran good all weekend long. So happy, so pumped up. I asked for us to come test the Busch car again here because I really want to win the Busch race. I think it would be exciting in front of my hometown crowd. Got so close last time. Just to get some laps on the track. It really helps me a lot to come to a track as much as you can, to run laps, learn as much as you can about it. I'm having fun today. Making a lot laps. We're learning some stuff. I'm glad to be back in the race car. Sitting at home watching TV, seeing what's on the news, I'd probably be pretty depressed watching what's happening. I'd rather be in a race car. I'm having a good time here today in Richmond.
Q. Can you talk about the sponsor pressure. I don't know what particular pressure you would feel, but just the overall sense that if you don't make it, you've failed your sponsor. Maybe that's too strong a word.
ELLIOTT SADLER: It's ungodly I think the pressure that we get as drivers. You know, not only from our sponsors, from our car owners. I think the Chase last year, people recognize how much recognition the top 10 guys got by being a part of the Chase, that every sponsor wants to be a part of it, every driver, every team. There's only so many pieces of the pie. If I don't make the Chase, will I feel like I failed my sponsor? Yes, I will, because I've been in the top 10 all year long until the last month. You know, we were almost counting our chickens before they were hatched around June, July. Yeah, I mean, it's going to be hard for me to look my sponsors in the face if we don't make it. But you know what, they've already called me 20 times in the last month just giving me that support, we're behind you a hundred percent, we love you no matter whether we make it or not. I've got the best sponsor in the sport because of that. They're very personable people. They know my home phone number, I know theirs. We talk all the time. Everybody from M&M and Master Foods has been calling me, keeping my spirits up, and make me feel like that as long as I keep doing my best, they're going to be behind me no matter what. I know we're getting pressure from everybody. Everybody wants to perform. Every sponsor wants to be a part of that elite top 10. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. You just got to keep trying hard and representing them the best way you know how to do it.
Q. Did you test California?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I am going to test California -- no, I did not test California. I was thinking of Kansas. I'm sorry.
Q. Do you see California possibly shaping up as a fuel mileage race?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, you know, any time you go to Michigan or California or Indy, you know, some of these long racetracks, there always can be fuel mileage can always be in the back of your mind. I know Doug Yates always goes with us to these big tracks and tunes our carburetors as best they can to make sure we're on the good end of the fuel mileage. It can pay off for you. I mean, Jeremy Mayfield and Slugger called a heck of a smart race in Michigan. Since that just happened two weeks ago, that's going to be fresh on everybody's mind when we get to California. I think you're going to see a lot of plug checks, fuel readings, things like that, just in case.
Q. As you mentioned earlier, this spring was your career performance at Richmond by far. What kind of changed or helped you? You hadn't had the finishes like you wanted. What turned around and maybe gives you some optimism for two weeks from now?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I tell you what helped me a lot. We went to Lakeland, Florida this winter and tested more times than I can possibly count for short tracks, because last year my short tracks were not that great. We tested a bunch, learned a ton. We went to Bristol and run good. We ran really well at Martinsville. Richmond we run good. We run good at both Bristol races. I've had career finishes everywhere. Loudon, I was going to have my best finish at Loudon till we had problems with somebody else. I just think we did so much short track testing over the winter to get our short track program up, I've got a lot of confidence in it. I think when we come back to Richmond in the Cup car, we're going to be a top 10 car. We're bringing the same car back. We haven't even raced it since we run it at Richmond. It's still pretty much got the same springs and stuff in it because we run in the top 10 pretty much all night long. We're up here massaging on my Busch car a little bit. If we learn something from that, we'll of course take to it the Cup car. I just think we did so much testing over the winter, it got my confidence better for short track racing, that that's why I think we've showed to be so much better this year in the short tracks in the Cup Series.
Q. Was that improvement finding things in the car or you kind of fine tuning your driving style, per se?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I think that's fine tuning my driving style and me being able to tell them what I want. If you only run a short track a couple times a year, you're not really practiced up on it enough and you might not know what you're looking for. When we went there testing, testing, and testing, went through every possible front clip, suspensions, spindles, everything that you can possibly bolt on a race car to make it better or worse, we went through it. Todd found a feel that I liked. I found how to communicate with them better on these shorter tracks. We did all these brake tests to make sure our brakes are right. We did everything in the world we could possibly do to help our program. It shows, we have run very, very well on short tracks this year. It's helped our program.
Q. You were able to do this off-season testing with the new policies coming in for next year with the limited testing, but also the tire leasing situation, is that something that would prevent -- I'm sure teams are stockpiling tires now, but would that prevent off-season testing like that down the road?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Yeah, it will. That's a great question, because we had a good meeting yesterday about that. NASCAR is pretty much coming up with six tracks or whatever that the manufacturers can go test at. We're going to pick -- I got a couple tests left. We're going to pick a couple tracks that are not on that sheet and go test them at the end of this year because we still have tests left. Get ready for next year, too. Not only preparing this year's races, but also for next year, kind of two-in-ones with the fusion and all. We'll see what happens. We're trying to play it the best and smartest way we can, not only for preparing for today's races, but also in the future. We're trying to stay at least one step ahead or even just stay caught up with everything going on for next year also.
Q. When you made the Chase last year, then finished ninth in the overall, did you suffer a letdown after the exhilaration of making the Chase?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Yeah, I mean, it was a letdown to me. You know, I wanted to run good and do my job. I got my heart rate up a bunch during the races because I was so excited about being in the Chase. Probably drove over my head, wrecked some cars that I shouldn't have wrecked. But that's all part of it. It was my first time ever being in a playoff-style system, my first time really ever running for the Nextel Cup. I was like a kid in a candy store, going crazy, driving too hard. But I was so excited to be a part of it. I learned a lot from that. I sat down with my boss a lot since that, who's been in these situations before. Really got my head going in the right direction. We were using it at the beginning of the year and everything was working good. Then we just kind -- the wheels have fallen off a little bit, but we're still running good. I want to get back in that chase for a second chance to show everybody if I'm in that situation again that we can definitely run better than we did last year.
Q. When you were out here a couple weeks ago, you didn't test, is that right?
ELLIOTT SADLER: No, sir, I did not test.
Q. Was that a sponsor trip?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Yeah, I just was coming out to Fontana to just get everybody pumped up, all the surrounding fans, getting them aware of the race coming, let them know NASCAR was coming to town. I was just kind of doing that for them.
Q. Right now we're obviously focusing on these last two races. I guess they all count the same when it really comes down to it. Is the pressure there every single week as much as it is for these next two races or is it really amplified right now?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, I think it's amplified because of the position that we are in. It's pressure at every single race to do good. But if I was second or third in the points right now, you know, like the top six in points right now I think are locked in, they're going to have fun. They're going to try to win the race. Not much pressure's on 'em. The guys that are 8th through 14th, I think, got a lot of pressure on them because you can't mess up. It's just amplified a little bit. But that's part of racing. My team is looking at it as we're not even -- the word points is not even going to come out of our mouths when we get to California. We're going there to win the race because we had so many fun there last week in Victory Lane. We think we're taking a car that can win, or at least get in the top five, maybe might get some breaks here and there, some fuel strategy, anything that might can happen to get us out front. We got a lot of pressure to do good, but you know what, we're not worried about it. We're going to go and try to win that race and run good. I've got a good enough team that can do it, will do it. We're going to give it our best shot.
Q. Is 10 the right number to get in?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Is what?
Q. Is 10 the right number?
ELLIOTT SADLER: You mean 10th place?
Q. 10 drivers, the format, do you like that it's 10? Would you like to see it fewer, more?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I think 10's a great number. 10 drivers for 10 races, shootout. You might see more than that this year. I don't know what would happen if there's a tie for 10th in point. I guess both of the them are in, I'm guessing. You never know with the points so close right now. We got a lot of great teams. I tell you what's so fun about it, I'm going have fun the next two weeks because we're racing such great race teams and great drivers. If we can look at ourselves in the mirror after Richmond and say we have beat some of the best teams to make the Chase, we should have a lot of confidence going into that final 10 races.
Q. Do you do anything different to help motivate your team when the Chase qualifying gets down to the last two races?
ELLIOTT SADLER: No, I think we're motivated enough just to make the Chase. I had a meeting with them a couple weeks ago before we went to Michigan just to say, hey, you know, this is what we're trying to do, this is what I want the pit crew to do, this is the way I think the attitude should be. We need to go try to win these races, not worry about the points, let them take care of theirselves, blah blah blah. Everybody's fired up. I got an awesome race team. We win and lose together. There's no singling out. If somebody messes up or what have you, we're all in this together. We're all joined hands. We're going with the team concept to Cally and Richmond. We know our backs are to the walls, we have no time for mistakes. You're going to have to beat the whole team, not just me or not just the front tire changer, rear tire changer, you're going to have to outrun our whole team from start to finish. That's the kind of attitude we're going to have.
Q. Do you have any added pressure? You come small town America. Do you have any pressure coming back here? Let's say you go to California, have a good finish, you're right there on the cusp, is that added pressure of coming back to your home state? Do you look forward to being there or do you think that's not an issue?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, it's not going to be a big issue. But I definitely, definitely look forward to racing in Richmond each and every time we come. It is home. I spent a lot of money over the years on tickets myself coming over here to watch races growing up as a kid. It's a very special place to me. And to have the final race of the Chase and have an opportunity to have one of the best nights of my racing career right here in my home state, it's exciting. I can't wait. You know, if we get in, it's going to be the best night of my life. If we don't, it's probably going to be the saddest part of my life. But to have the chance to do it here in your home state in front of a lot of your family and friends is a great opportunity a lot of people don't really get to I think enjoy or be a part of. We're coming here with the attitude that we're going to make it and we're going to have fun and celebrate and enjoy it while we are here in Richmond. I just can't wait to get back here. The next two races, I'm so eager to get in the car and strap in and let's go for it and see where the chips fall at.
Q. Do you think you've kind of in a full circle? You had a breakout season last year before the Chase, caught some bad luck, got a little happy in the car, made some mistakes. This year you were kind of sitting pretty but then luck just kind of came down against you. Do you feel like you've come full circle? Maybe if you make this Chase, you might be able to make a solid run for the championship?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I think so. I think our first priority is making the Chase. When we get in the Chase, anything can happen. That's why I love the Chase format, that anything can happen. Any guy -- you can be 10th in the points when it starts and easily win the championship. Right now, we're focused on two races, California and Richmond. We're carrying our best stuff, our best motors, best cars, everything we possibly can do to go to these two races. It's a wildcard race. It's not but 70 or 80 points I think between 8th and 13th. I just think that's really close comfort there. We'll see what happens in the next two races.
Q. I was in Montreal for another series over the weekend, all the talk was about NASCAR coming to town. Can you talk about your feelings about a possible race in Canada? How do you think the Busch cars, if they would go to Montreal, would fare on that circuit?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I think the Busch cars would do a great job no matter where they go. We have so many I think great owners involved in the Busch Series right now, a lot of great sponsors, that I think a Busch race could go anywhere and stand on its own for the first time. I think they showed that in Mexico for the fans, the support that we had. Honestly, I've only been to Canada one time in my life. I went there this year and had a ball. Really did not know how big a NASCAR fans fully it was north of the border. They were so welcoming and so energized. I can see that happening in the near future. I can see that happening in the near future. I can see maybe a Busch race or so first going up there and checking things out and see if we can get some fan support from there. Then you never know. I was really happy to see all the fans up there in Canada, and they knew everything about every race that we'd ever driven in. You know, why not? We're expanding to different areas. I know we have a lot of great sponsors that evolved in NASCAR that definitely do a lot of work in Canada. So why not go there?
Q. You said about the number of fans. I think there's about six million in Canada. What kind of mail do you get from them? Is there a lot of interaction with them? Do you get letter with stamps from Canada?
ELLIOTT SADLER: A bunch. I went up there to do an autograph session. They had four times the people that we actually thought were going to be there. Yeah, my fan club gets a lot of letters and a lot of cards and stuff to be signed from Canada. So that's just neat. Makes you feel good. You never know who's cheering for you, who's not, who's a NASCAR fan, who's not until you go to different places and meet new people. I love being able to do that. If one day there's a race there, I'm all for it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody, for joining us. Elliott, best of luck today and best of luck in California. We will see you all next week.
ELLIOTT SADLER: Appreciate you guys having me on. I want to apologize to everybody on today that I was a little bit late. Todd wouldn't let me out of the car in time. Sorry about that, guys. I'll make it up to you.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Elliott.
ELLIOTT SADLER: Y'all have a good day.
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