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NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Winston Cup

NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

Terry Labonte
Elliott Sadler
Hermie Sadler
January 18, 2003


DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

Q. Terry, coming into this year, I think there is a lot of optimism with your team, the finish you had last year toward the last five or six races of the year and coming into the year, renewed optimism and ready to go race in 2003.

TERRY LABONTE: I think there's a couple of things we are looking forward to. The fact that this is the second year Jim and I have been able to work together, Jim is a gem of a crew chief. He came on board last year just before the season started and kind of inherited the team there and wasn't able to start out the season the way he wanted to. He has been able to make some changes over the winter here. And I think we got an improved pit crew and building new cars. We got a new Chevy that looks a lot like a Dodge or a Ford. They all look alike now. We have a new body style with our Monte Carlo so we are looking forward to that. We think that will help us. We are working to try to get our cars consistent. I think we should be a lot better than we were a year ago. We were not very consistent, and we have been able to look at some reasons why we weren't consistent and I think we got a better handle on that. So we will see.

ELLIOTT SADLER: We have a lot of optimism in that camp. A lot of optimism in the Sadler Family. Looking forward to a great season, looking forward to learning a lot. Pretty long off-season, we had a lot of testing going on, trying to learn a lot about each other. We have a new crew chief Raymond Fox, this is his first year doing it, and our first year working together. Just a brand new attitude at Robert Yates Racing. This doesn't even seem like the same thing that I signed with last year. Six months ago it moved us all in the same shop, reorganized the whole thing and by the way winter testing has gone I think we are going to surprise a lot of people this year. We are looking forward with a new sponsor with M & M's and Robert Yates Racing.

Q. Hermie, you are going to have an announcement about your Winston Cup program.

HERMIE SADLER: Yes, I'm real excited to be back in the Busch Series with The ToysR'Us car. It's a good opportunity for me to get back running part-time which is tough. Winston Cup guys made lots of progress and had some good qualifying runs. We ran pretty well at times and we switched over to a Pontiac for our Winston Cup program and we are going to run 12 races and we will announce the sponsorship program at Daytona. But went from sitting at home all the time to being pretty busy. I'm real excited about that and looking forward for the season.

Q. Elliott, you ran fairly well in the Daytona races in the Wood Brothers car. Now you have Robert Yates horsepower under the hood. You are pretty fast during testing. When you let your mind start thinking about the year that you -- do you think about winning the Daytona 500?

ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, I hope so. You bring up a good point. We have run well at Daytona the last couple of years. Finishing second, Ward was a great confidence builder to me being on that race track at Daytona and even a bigger confidence booster when I got to sit down in the 38 car in winter testing really feel like how fast that was and how good it drove and the whole nine yards, yeah, I think we can win that race. And everybody in the shop wants us to win that race. They are doing everything they can and crossing every T and dotting every I to make sure we have a chance to win that race like everybody else. That's definitely the No. 1 priority on this race team right now is to go to speed week and have a car that is capable of winning that race. They saw me finish second last year so it gets their confidence up and it got my confidence up on how fast we were in the testing. So the No. 1 priority on our team we think we could win the Daytona 500 and it's a good feeling to have.

Q. You are the big pro wrestling fan and all that stuff. One guy has got a wrestling career going; are you envious of that?

ELLIOTT SADLER: I am not envious, no. Hermie is in a lot better shape than I am to get tossed around the way he has been doing it. It's been fun watching him. I'm a fan of wrestling and that's the way I'm going to stay. I will let him keep promoting them and wrestling. He is doing a great job. I might be too fragile. I like my sit-down job on Sundays.

Q. You spent a lot of your money last couple of years to try to keep your name out there. It's paid off. Is it worth that kind of investment?

HERMIE SADLER: Sure, if I'm not willing to invest in my own career how can I ask somebody else to do it? There are a lot of things going on with my family and daughter, I firmly believe everything happens for a reason. The reason there was a no-good situation was because I needed to be at home. Now we have Hailey making remarkable progress and things are going well there and you can't be competitive in this sport in any level if you are not 100% focused on that which you need to do. I wasn't able to do that the last couple of years. So this opportunity I have this year I really need to do that and really need to show that I do belong in Busch Series Racing and Winston Cup Racing. So I'm looking forward to doing that.

Q. There are high expectations for you this season. Do you worry about putting too much pressure on yourself?

ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, I'm going to put pressure on myself. Most of you who know me know that's going to happen. I just want to do good. It's comes back to the competition I have. That's what I want to do well. I have moved back to Charlotte to try to spend a lot of time in the shop to get to know the guys so we can break all of the ice we can before we get to Daytona. We think we can run good. If you've seen the progress I have seen the last few months you would get high hopes up, too. I have been doing - like you all have, I have been reading all of the articles people are printing and where they pick us to finish. They say we can't win a race; some say we can. I'm saving each one of the articles and putting them up in Raymond's office so we have some inspiration when we go to the racetrack - the folks that say we can't do it. We have a lot of determination on our race team and feel we have a lot to prove and with the new partnership that we have between the two race teams you are going to see some great things, hopefully, from both of us.

Q. Terry, can you just talk about over your career, kind of the role that the drivers had and the success, either the car or the driver, how that's evolved and with the similar body shapes, does that kind of go back to one way or the other?

TERRY LABONTE: Well, I think the driver has always had a lot of input mostly in order -- given the crew chief information as far as what the car is doing on the race track. You know it's kind of hard for that guy to fix it if he doesn't know what the car is doing. It's important to be able to translate to him what the car is doing on the race track so they can make the changes for him. You know most of the drivers they give input as far as some things to do but usually that's up to the crew chiefs. The most important thing a driver can do is relay accurate information as far as what the car is doing so they can make the right changes to it. What was the second part?

Q. Does it matter as much with all of the computer technology at least in testing?

TERRY LABONTE: Yes, it does. It's just as important. Basically the computer stuff and the engineers, you know, they can see a lot of the same things that you feel. You can tell the car is doing a certain thing and 15 minutes later they come back and tell you were are right. It's still important to feel that the driver has the input that he has even though you have the engineers and all the computer stuff. With the body styles being the same, it's going to equal the field up. Hopefully it will eliminate some of the complaints with the different makes and things like that. I don't really see how anybody can have much of an advantage over anybody else. It appeared they are going to all be close to the same.

Q. Elliott and Hermie, how would you guys categorize your competitive nature among each other? Are you like the Burtons? A lot of times they -- Ward and Jeff sometimes don't get along. How would you characterize it?

HERMIE SADLER: I will speak first. He can chime in. We have a good relationship because there is quite a difference in age and when I started racing go-karts, as soon as I moved up, Elliott took my stuff and continued to race and when I started racing late models and moved to Busch, he took my late model operation; same way with Busch, when I had my Busch team, the first couple of Busch races he was with my equipment so therefore I'm responsible for every bit of success he's ever had. And I'm waiting for my check. (Laughter) It's been great. I think I kind of paved the way back in the early days to get him started. Since he has had some success he's he has helped paved some ways to get me back into the sport. He has helped me in my sponsor searches and helped me get stuff done and that type of thing. So it is kind of reversal of roles a bit, but it's definitely an asset to have a family member involved in a sport with you.

ELLIOTT SADLER: Yes, I agree with everything he said. We never raced with the Burtons or Bodines or raced each other because of the age. I have always been the Hermie Sadler fan and he has been always been the Elliott Sadler fan. Now he will run the full Busch Series this year; hopefully the stuff I learned over at Yates might help him. We will get to correlate a little bit and help him run this year.

Q. So in a match race who wins?

ELLIOTT SADLER: I'm sure he wins. He is the oldest. He is supposed to win.



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