NASCAR Media Conference
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everybody, to the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series is at Lowe's Motor Speedway Sunday for the UAW GM Quality 500. The race will be on NBC beginning at 7 p.m. eastern time. The NASCAR Busch Series is also night racing at Charlotte in the Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie 300 Friday beginning at 8 p.m., and that will be live on TNT. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is back after a week off. They'll race Saturday at the Silverado 350 K at Texas Motor Speedway. That race starts at 2 p.m. eastern time and will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel. The NEXTEL leader bonus is at $20,000 for Charlotte and will go to the race winner if he is also the points leader at the end of the event. The NEXTEL wake-up call is set at 8 a.m. Friday morning at Lowe's Motor Speedway with the featured guest joining in about 8:30. Other guest today is Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M Ford. Elliott enters Saturday night's race fourth in the chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, 143 points behind leader Kurt Busch. His fourth place finish at Kansas last week vaulted him four spots in the standings and that was the biggest jump of any driver in the chase last week. He has been ranked in the NASCAR Top 10 in each race week this season, the first time in his Cup career he's been in the Top 10. He has a career best two wins this season at Texas and also at California. He has 8 Top 5 and 13 Top 10 finishes so far this year, and those stats are career series highs, as well. In 12 starts at Charlotte, Elliott has one Top 5 and one Top 10 finish, and both of those were collected in the spring race where he finished fifth and led 41 laps. He started seventh in the fall race last year, but an accident relegated him to 43rd place at the finish. Thanks for joining our call today.
ELLIOTT SADLER: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
THE MODERATOR: Needless to say, spring as opposed to the bad luck last fall at Charlotte, and especially following your great finish at Kansas on Sunday. Talk about that.
ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, we are. I think Lowe's Motor Speedway is one of the tracks that I excel at as a driver. I usually qualify good there and usually have a good race car. We led a bunch of laps there in the spring, was running third or fourth there last year in the fall when we got caught up in somebody else's stuff. So I got a lot of confidence going to that track. The guys have built me a brand-new race car. It's a great piece. I can't wait to sit down in it Thursday and go and just try to keep some of this momentum we got on our side, carry it through this whole weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Elliott Sadler
Q. Climbing four spots, and the way you have raced all year, the funny thing is, I don't know how funny it is to you, it's like everybody else is talking about Jeff and Curt and Dale. You seem to have the momentum
ELLIOTT SADLER: I think we're racing a lot differently than some of the other teams are right now. I think those guys, a lot of people are talking about them because they should be the ones that we need to outrun. I really think the 24 car, is going to be the one when it's all said and done, we're going to have to beat. Kurt Busch and Dale, Jr. have won the same amount of championships I have. They might not know what's really to come the next five or six races. But Jeff Gordon has a lot of championship experience. I think his team understands what they need to do to win. You know, I got a great crew chief that's helping me. We kind of out there having fun. We're having a great time; no pressure on us. We're just out there making laps. We'll try to get the win. If we don't, we'll try to do the best we can. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage before the season comes to an end.
Q. You say Jeff has the advantage, but the experience of being in a tight championship hunt. Who do you rely on or do you have to rely on somebody to say, "Here is what you should expect down the stretch"?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I'll tell you, I got the best teammate in the world. Even after the Richmond race where my teammate Dale Jarrett was so disappointed in not making the Top 10, things like, that because they worked so hard. Two days after that he calls me and we talk for an hour on the phone about what can I expect as a driver. Here are the tracks we really need to try to win at. Here are the tracks we need to try to get the best finish we can at. Here are some of the emotions you're going to be going through. Really got me prepared for every week, mentally, as far as what I think I should be facing when I'm in the race car because he's been there and done that in 1999 when he won the championship. He understands what the pressures are and has really just come forth and said, "Look, if any question is on your mind, give me a call, let me know." He thought he pretty much told me what I'll be thinking pretty much before I get to every race. That's exactly what I've gone through. It's made me so relaxed as a race car driver, I'm just having fun with it. I think it's pretty cool
Q. If you come out with the trophy, are you going to let him help you hold it up?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Definitely. He said he'll be the first one in New York with me because he's going to be my biggest fan. I told him don't be surprised if he gets caught up on stage there with us because he's been a big coach and a friend, a best friend, one, and a coach second. Just a great, great teammate. I can't ask for a better situation than I'm in right now. Robert and Doug and everybody at Yates Racing has been behind me a hundred percent. It's just been fun. I just cannot tell you how relaxed we are when we get to the racetrack. We aren't feeling any pressure whatever. We're eighth in the points last week. We're fourth this week. We're just going to go to Lowe's, win the race, sit on the pole first, because I haven't got a pole yet this year. That's our main goal this weekend. If we do that, we're just going to have fun for 500 miles and go from there.
Q. This morning Terry Labonte announced he's going to run half the season the next two years. That of course comes after Rusty saying next year will be his last year, Bill Elliott cutting back to a limited schedule this year. Mark Martin apparently is going to announce something similar tomorrow. As a young guy, one of the youngest guys, youngest stars in the series, how do you feel about all these great names, champions at the end of their career, finishing up their careers while yours is just starting to bloom
ELLIOTT SADLER: I tell you, it's scary to me because I really think us young guys, us young drivers that are in this sport, really need to open our eyes and pay attention to where these guys have taken us. We have to carry the torch forward and keep carrying it. You're not going to mention any higher class names than Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace, or Bill Elliott, Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, or these people that have been in the sport a long time. I think us as young drivers really need to realize and really take the sport to keep it going on the path that they've got us going in. I watched the teleconference this morning on TV. Like everything else he's ever done in his career, he did it with class. So did Rick Hendrik, the whole organization. It was a neat, neat deal. I do have to say congratulations to Terry. He's set a lot of records and his name has been in the history book a long times. Us as young drivers really need to pay attention to how these guys do things and what they have represented to the sport and what they've meant to the sport and just keep it going down that line.
Q. What do you envision as far as a career? Do you envision racing into your late 40s like these guys have?
ELLIOTT SADLER: No, I haven't. I was thinking around 40 years old that I would like to maybe start throttling back around then and spend more time at home, you know, with my family and things like that. I think our time, because of sponsors and stuff now, we spend a lot more time away from home now than what you did 10 years ago. So it kind of uses you up a little bit more each and every year. So maybe the driver's span might not be as long as it used to be, by the time I get 40 years old. So that's what I was thinking right now. If I'm still competitive and winning races at 40, I'll continue to do it. But if not, I might throttle back and spend a lot of time at home with my family and try to do things that a way. I have a great respect for these guys that have been in the sport a long, long time that are still able to, you know, do all the appearances and all the obligations that you need to do off the track, plus running well on the track. It takes a lot of dedication, a lot of heart, a lot -- your mentality's got to be great, too. I really commend those guys that are able to do that all up into their late 40s.
Q. In your time in the Cup Series, have you had a close association with Terry? Is he the kind of guy you've been able to go to for advice or perhaps not?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I tell what's funny about Terry, maybe a lot of people don't know, he's got the driest humor. He's one of the funniest guys we have in the garage. I know he's the Ironman, Iceman, he's got all these nicknames, being calm, cool and collected. As a person out of his race car, he's one of the funniest guys in the world. He'll just make you laugh, joke after joke. Can tell great stories and stuff like that. His brother Bobby is the same way. Just great people. That's how I'm going to remember Terry, being around him, you know, kind of away from the racetrack. I love racing with him. And he races you the way you race him, which most great veterans do. But I'm just going to remember all the time away from the racetrack, how funny he is, how good a guy he is. Always have the time for people. You can always go and ask him any kind of question in the world. He always has time for you. Just class is the best word I can explain him and his whole family.
Q. Can you just talk about I guess what has this been like, the championship chase, on you as a driver? At Talladega a couple weeks ago, you were kind of talking about after the race you think your title hopes are pretty much over. Now after last week, you jump up four spots. If things work out right, Saturday night, you're close enough, you could actually be the points leader, how the emotions change from week to week. Is this like anything that you've done before?
ELLIOTT SADLER: No, it's not actually. I tell you, I've been through every rung on the ladder it seems like in the first four races, from good to bad to thinking we got a break to we got a big hole to dig out of. We do now. We still got a big hole to dig out of. Kurt Busch is doing a phenomenal job. Jeff Gordon is right where he wants to be. Dale, Jr. is also. So guys behind me are also going to be I think very tough till the last couple of races. But as far as my emotions, I mean, I think we want to win this championship. I mean, that's our ultimate goal. We've dug ourselves a little hole. The best way to dig ourselves out of the hole is to just keep going to the racetrack and keep doing the same things we've done all year, and that is to run every single lap we possibly can. In Kansas City when it came to that last pit stop, when a lot of the guys filed off to get fuel or whatever, and that moved us up. Todd asked what do I want to do. That's actually what I wanted to do. Todd, what do we got to lose? Who cares if we run out of gas for two or three laps to go. We came here to win the race. This is the best opportunity for us to win the race. Let's stay out. We did. It ended up giving us a fourth place finish, which is almost like a win to us. Because we outrun everybody else that was in the points race with us. That's the attitude we have. I was frustrated after Talladega because I just made one little mistake that cost us 20 or 30 points, and they're hard to come by nowadays. You know what, we're going to take what it gives us. These final 10 races are a bonus to us anyway and a bonus to our sponsors. We know we're going to New York. I'm very happy about that. I just hope I get to talk later in the show instead of the first one to have to come on stage. That's kind of the way I'm looking at it right now
Q. How do you deal with that emotional swing from week to week, how it affects you, how long does it take to get over it or move forward after a good or bad weekend? Things seem to change even more dramatically now than before.
ELLIOTT SADLER: You're exactly right. Like I say, it's taking you through every emotion I think a human can possibly have. I'm not a person that has his feelings very well. I wear my feelings right out on my sleeve where everybody can see them. When I'm in a bad mood, everybody knows it. When I'm in a good mode, everybody knows it. But what's been helping me is Todd has been really good for me. My teammate Dale Jarrett has really been talking me through a lot of things. He understands my age and how I'm looking at things. I think they've been the best to talk about, even after a frustrating day, as soon as I landed at home Sunday night back in Charlotte, the first -- my phone rang. It was Dale Jarrett. We talked for 40 minutes about what could have happened, what should have happened. Okay, this is how we're going to fix it. This is how we're going to get ready for Kansas City. That's really got me more prepared than anything and really it's got my attitude I think where it needs to be to be successful in this deal.
Q. I know you're a big hunter during the off-season. You also talked about your family. Is the season too long for you?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, what's messed me up this year is hunting season's coming in a week early in Virginia. It comes in -- deer hunting comes in the Saturday I'm at Darlington. We need to work on that. Get with the state of Virginia to see if they can't back hunting up a week or so because I'm going to miss the first week because I'll be at Homestead doing stuff also all week. I do look forward to when Homestead is over with and I get to spend time home at Virginia doing some deer hunting with some friends I went to high school and all with. I always look forward to that time. But as far as racing season being too long, I mean, it is a long season. It's tough. But I think the way that we've done the points now and split it up, it kind of seems like it's not that long anymore. It's like two separate seasons. That's kind of made the time go by a lot quicker this year.
Q. I know you also play golf. If there was a NEXTEL drivers golf cup, would you take it home?
ELLIOTT SADLER: It would close. My teammate is probably the best golfer. I might get him some days. He can putt so much better than I can. He won't tell me the secrets of putting. He kicks my butt on the green all the time. I'd be close, probably first or second, probably second. He's a little better golfer than I am. I give him a run for his money.
Q. You've had a great year. Have you had your best moment in racing yet?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I'll tell you, I get asked that question some about, you know, your best moment, what you're thinking of. I think my best moment in racing, and some people think of things differently. I remember the first time, I was only like 20 years old, 21 years old, I remember the first time my tractor-trailer actually pulled in the racetrack with my name on the side of it. I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. It's almost like, wow, you've made it. And I think that was just as a kid growing up, watching my older brother race, being a big fan of NASCAR, that's probably the most special thing that's ever happened to me and something that sticks out in my mind. I've had a lot of great things happen to me on the racetrack, winning races, running good, stuff like that. But as far as this is a cool, great childhood dream came true is when I was standing there and watched the trucks come in for the first time and watched my name come in on the side of the truck in Daytona, 1997 actually, first race at Daytona, Busch Series race there. I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.
Q. Your hair, they wanted to know if you weren't cutting it until you won? What's the deal with your hair?
ELLIOTT SADLER: It's just want to do something different. It's no excuses to it. There's no, you know, sideline stuff going on. It's something different. You know, I've been clean-cut, crew-cut like haircut my whole life. I saw a guy's hair on TV one day. I thought that would be cool. So I'm starting to let it grow. I'm probably going to even bleach it this winter when nobody's around to see what it looks like blonde when I'm hunting. That way it will have time to get back to grow my color by the time I get back to Daytona. Just something to do different. I am going to let it grow out during hunting season. And if it doesn't look good, I'll probably cut it by the time I make it down for the Daytona 500 next year. But just something different. I like it. It's different. I don't even have to comb it when I get out of bed. Just let it goes wherever it wants to go. All the guys on the team call my Shaggy. I don't care. It's cool. Also I'm a little, you know, superstitious, too. I haven't had a DNF. We made it in the Top 10. We won at California. A lot of good things have happened to me since I've gone on this strike as far as not cutting my hair. So I'm just kind of going to let it all play out right now.
Q. How much do you pride yourself on your finishing races? Seems like you never have a DNF next to your name.
ELLIOTT SADLER: That's great. Last year I did have a lot of DNFs. It was dragging over my head half the time. This year I think I've learned so much about when to race, when not to race, race the racetrack, pick your battles. That's something I really learned this year. I've been a big student of picking my battles on the racetrack. Seems to have worked out for us good. That's the first thing I said to Todd after we wrecked at Talladega, we flipped. Hey, no DNS, Buddy, we crossed the start/finish. I don't care how bad the car looks. That's something my whole team, they got a lot of pride right now. In the engine shop, no engine problems, nothing falling off the car. We've just been very lucky to stay out of everybody's problems and way and get to finishes. That's what our team wants to do the rest of the year. We're nothing flashy, not going to go in and lead the most laps every week, run in the top two every week, but we're going to run every single lap that's on that schedule. We think if we keep doing that, anything's possible
Q. You've been to Martinsville. Can you tell us about that?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Wow, Martinsville is fast. It's very, very fast, very smooth racetrack. It's got a lot of grip. We run about a second faster than we did last year. Definitely the new track record will be set when we go up there next week. I don't know about the two grooves yet. We got to get more cars on the racetrack moving around a little bit to see if the second groove is going to come in. Right now everything is running around the bottom. Clay Campbell and his bunch did a great job, spent a lot of money. As drivers, we do really appreciate the soft wall - not only on the outside but he also put them on the inside. We say thank you to him for that. I think you're going to see a lot of fast times. They made it a lot more driver-friendly, which will probably bunch us up a lot. Probably be some good racing by the time we get there.
Q. A lot of our fans want to know how comfortable you are at Lowe's Motor Speedway and most importantly at Homestead.
ELLIOTT SADLER: I tell you what, Lowe's has always fit my driving style. I really always qualify good there. I usually have a good car, got a good feel. Just certain places that fit your driving style more than others. Homestead, I really enjoyed going there last year. I had a great Busch car there last year. I think we had an engine problem with a couple laps to go, we run like second or third. Really didn't run that good there in the Cup car, but learned a lot. I really like Homestead. You can race on the bottom, you can rise up high. They made it a two-groove racetrack. I was glad to see they added banking. Homestead, we'll be going there and testing for two days, get down there in some hot weather a little bit, check things out in Miami, will be pretty cool. I can't wait to go down there. Homestead, it's a great track. It's fun, I'm glad they changed it, and I can't wait till we finish the season up down there.
Q. After making the biggest gain in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points this year, how do you see yourself continuing in this effort and making a break for the championship at the end of the year?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Well, hey, we're going to continue to do the same things we've done all year, and that's just try to run every lap. We got a good car for this weekend. We went and tested for Martinsville. My teammate is going to test Phoenix. We're going to go off his notes a lot, I'm sure. We're preparing ourselves as best we can. We've really tried to cross every T and dot every I. We're just going to go out there and run every lap. I mean, whatever happens happens. We're going to try to go to Lowe's Motor Speedway and win this race this weekend. I don't care what it does to the points if. If it's a fuel mileage race, we are going to take that chance, do whatever we can to get into Victory Lane because I think it would be cool to win at Lowe's Motor Speedway. That's kind of the attitude we're going to have for the rest of the year. We'll sit down at Homestead the end of the year and see what that gives us.
Q. With the whole scandal with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and the points this last week, if the appeal does not go through, let's say you are the driver that's going to win the championship, you win by 25 points over Junior, how do you look at that?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I look at it as my team did a great, great job to get me in that situation. I think where the media is messing up, it shouldn't be that it was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. It should be any driver, whether the 8 or the 89. It doesn't matter who the driver is; if you break a rule of NASCAR's, then you got to pay the price, no matter who it is. I think that's a mistake a lot of us are making, that it's all because it was him. NASCAR told us when we went to New Hampshire, that they're going to call the races the same as they always have. And they stuck by that. So I do have to applaud NASCAR for being consistent. But I think it's hard to ask a race team how they're going to feel if they win the championship by less than 25 points if it is over the 8 car because I can't look my guys straight in the face and feel like it's going to be a tainted championship because I've seen how hard they've worked all year long. We've done ourselves a great job to put ourselves in this position. And we beat 43 other great race teams to get ourselves in this position. They might feel -- the 8 car might feel a little bad maybe of what happened or maybe putting theirselves in that position. But whoever wins the championship, I can't see that their team would feel bad about it because their team has done a lot of great things to get theirselves in that position.
THE MODERATOR: Elliott, with that we'll go ahead and let you go and get you and your team prepared for Charlotte this weekend, obviously, the rest of the races in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Thanks for taking the time to join us today and best of luck to you and the 38 team as you guys continue on.
ELLIOTT SADLER: I really appreciate it, guys. Thank y'all so much for having us.
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to thank you all for your participation on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teleconference. Have a great week.
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