NASCAR Media Conference
June 19, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 2 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Sadler leads the NASCAR series points standings leading into this weekend's race. Sadler started seventh and finished fourth last year in his only start at Road America. So far this season Sadler has amassed 10 top‑10 finishes.
Elliott, you're coming off three top‑10 finishes in the last four races. Talk about your team's expectations leading into the race this weekend at Road America.
ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, they're pretty high. I really feel like a road course is a place that we can gain some points and get some good finishes. I've always been pretty good on road courses through my career. Last year we had a really good chance of winning the race at Road America, we ended up fourth, but were happy with that. Taking the same car back again this year.
Feel like I have a lot better knowledge and understanding of what I need as a racecar driver to be fast at Road America. So we're looking forward to the challenge this weekend, think we can go up there and have a really successful race.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now go to the media for questions for Elliott Sadler.
Q. You obviously had your share of success at the Cup level. Now running in Nationwide, how different is life for you showing up at the track knowing that you have a chance to win week in and week out where maybe the last few years when you ran Cup you probably didn't feel you had stuff to actually win the race?
ELLIOTT SADLER: It's a totally different mentality. It's the same mentality I had when I drove the 38 car for Robert Yates Racing back in the day when you showed up and you felt like you had a chance to have a successful weekend, to sit on the pole, to lead laps, to be a part of the championship conversation. We're back in the middle of that again.
Last year and this year have been a total different experience than what I was used to the prior four years to that. It's been a lot of fun.
It's fun showing up to the racetrack and having a bunch of guys around you that believe in you and having a bunch of guys that want to win and want to be there and want to be part of a good race team.
I think it showed up on the racetrack, in my attitude, and I think it showed up in how fast the cars are each week. We really believe in each other.
It says a lot for a driver's confidence when you're with a secure team, there's a lot of stability there, you feel like you're racing week‑to‑week to get better and better and be part of a championship conversation. It's a lot more fun on me as a driver than things I went through in the past.
Q. Do you have now separate road course cars? If you do, how many teams are using road course‑specific cars right now in the Nationwide Series?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Yes, we do have different cars that we use for the road course. I have two cars that KHI built for me last year. We have two road course cars, a primary and a backup. We ran those two cars in the three races we had last year. Especially because Watkins Glen and Montréal are back to back, you have to have two cars just in case you tear one up at Watkins Glen.
How many teams are doing that? I would say the top 15 to 20 at least at Road America this weekend will have specialized road course cars where they're built to go both ways with good bodies and stuff on them as opposed to go just to the left with the downforce. I would say at least 20 cars are built that way.
Q. I know you've run well on road courses. Do you look at the three road course races on the schedule and say, I want to make sure I get a certain amount of points out of those three?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Yeah, I mean, last year we would have put three top‑10 finishes in all three races. Last year Road America we had a chance to win but I had to conserve fuel a lot the last lap or two, let guys go to make sure we didn't penalize ourselves with points. Watkins Glen, one of the fastest cars there, kept getting grass on the grill.
This year we're going to try to win the race and get as many points as we can. We feel we're going to be that good, that fast at Road America. From the test sessions we had, from the results we had last year on road courses, we have a good attitude on this team. We feel we can go anywhere and race for the win. We seem to be running up front seems like every week we go, whether it's practice, qualifying or the race. We'll try to keep that same mentality this weekend at Road America.
Q. You mentioned the points. We hear often that racing well will take care of the points. Don't contending drivers and teams check and focus on those points, ponder points throughout the season?
ELLIOTT SADLER: We've talked about this earlier with the different driving styles that drivers have. Yes, we live and die by the points system. We live and die by the almighty point you gain week in and week out. You're not going to go out there and do something stupid to penalize yourself of points. If you run in the top 5 every week, the points will take care of theirselves.
It's different teams and different situations. People now on the Cup side that are running for the Chase, you have teams on the outside looking in that are going to race differently than guys already on the inside. They're going to try to maintain points and not finish 30th or worse because you get penalized if you finish worse than 30th. In the Nationwide, there's no Chase format so you try to get the maximum number of points you can each week. If you're involved in a wreck, like me being wrecked by Joey Logano a couple weeks ago, cost us 28 points. It took me awhile to get those back.
So us, we're in a little bit different boat than what the Cup guys are in. But we feel we have to be aggressive to get top 5s because we feel those racing for the championship are going to do the same.
Q. What does it do for your team and you when you got the points lead now?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, to us it means we can be a little bit more aggressive because we can take a little bit more chances. I'll give you an example, going to Road America this weekend. From a month ago when we were 40 points behind to this week going into Road America where we're ahead in points, we changed our strategy a little bit on fuel, fuel mileage, how much can we push the issue, we might can be a little more aggressive now, push the fuel issue now because we do have some points to spare to try to get ourselves a win. If we were going in there 40 points down, we would have to be careful not to lose any more points than that.
We feel we can use this weekend to gain some points. You can't be aggressive when you're so many points down because if you lose more points than that, you dig yourself into a hole. The mentality changes it's based on how much you're ahead or behind racing for that particular spot.
Q. What might you do differently going into a road course race than maybe into an oval race?
ELLIOTT SADLER: The biggest thing I've done is study my in‑car camera tape from last year. Where in an oval, you know, it's really four corners, you kind of know where you want to be at, especially if you've raced these places year after year, you know how your car wants to feel, you know where you want to be on the racetrack, your line of sight, your groove needs to be.
Road courses, I've only been to Road America once. I was privileged enough last year to have an in‑car camera. I've been studying that a bunch the last two weeks, getting myself mentally prepared for what I think I need to do when I get there. Also my crew chief and I watched it together trying to select gear selections, ratios, rear gears, brakes, different things, saying, I was good here compared to this car in front of me, but maybe I was bad on this side of the track. We try to adjust our car to what we think the track is going to give us on Friday.
Just a little different mentality as far as studying the turns, what gear you're in. It's almost like studying for an exam going to a road course. That's the way I approach it. So when I get there, my learning curve is as short as I can make it.
Q. How much more confidence have you gained in yourself since you started being closer to your family?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, speaking of family, I'm here right now at Madagascar, I brought my son to see Madagascar. I stepped outside the movie for a minute to call you guys.
My confidence comes from being in a really good position right now, being with a really good race team. Richard Childress and I were talking about this the other day at Michigan. This is the first time in five years I've been with a race team that's not selling or going out of business at the end of the year. Man, as a driver, that's a huge, huge success. That's a huge part of that confidence, that mental level you have to have to compete week in and week out. It's the first time in five years I'm with a team that I know is going to be here at the end of this year and next year.
Showing up at the racetrack every week knowing I'm with a good team with a lot of stability definitely makes me feel good as a racecar driver. We have a lot of confidence right now. A lot of the teams and guys we outrun on Saturday run really good on Sunday. That gives me a lot of confidence and my team a lot of confidence that we have fast racecars.
Q. The position you are in life right now, is it better to be on a competitive team that wins races, that competes for championships at the Nationwide level, as opposed to running on a team that's running 25th every week in Cup?
ELLIOTT SADLER: That's a really good question. I want to be on a team that's competitive, period, whether you run in Nationwide or run in Cup. I've been on a very competitive Cup team. We had a chance to win races, were part of the Chase. I thoroughly enjoyed that part of it. I've been on part of Cup teams that I was running show cars, used parts, used motors, that was no fun at all. Now I'm with a Nationwide car that we feel we can win a race every time we show up. This is what I want to do.
If a call comes one day and I'm able to get back in a competitive Cup car and go run, I would love to do that. I'm not going to go to Cup just to say I'm a Cup driver to ride around 25th and 30th and not be a contender. I'm having way too much fun being competitive. This is why I'm do it. I'm a competitive person whether I'm on the racetrack or off the racetrack. I love the situation I'm in right now because of that.
Q. The 2 car you're driving now, how much carryover was there as your KHI team and moving over?
ELLIOTT SADLER: My KHI team last year is the 33 team this year, Kevin Harvick and those guys, Paul Menard, people like that. My 2 team are all brand‑new guys, every single one of them. All of them were from the RCR umbrella. I had to learn all new guys, they had to learn me. Luke was the first‑time crew chief in the Nationwide Series, has done a tremendous job. We really hit it off not only as workers and peers of each other on the same race team, but really good friends. I think that's what has spirited us to the next level. I think our friendship is showing up because of that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Elliott, for joining us today. We wish us the best of luck this weekend at Road America.
ELLIOTT SADLER: Thanks for your time. I'm going to head back into the movie now (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Thank you to the media for joining us, as well.
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