NASCAR Media Conference
July 19, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference. We'll be joined today by both Elliott Sadler and Austin Dillon.
We're first joined by Elliott Sadler from the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Elliott will also be pulling double duty this weekend as also races this Friday in the NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series. Elliott is in the current points leader in the Nationwide Series and will make his 150th series start this weekend at Nashville. He was the media's pre-season favorite to unify the driver and owner championship and he has rebounded after a tough start to the season.
Elliott, you've had a chance to race at Nashville this past April. What are you able to take away from that race weekend to apply to this weekend?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Redemption. We're looking forward to going back this weekend and running a lot better than we did the first time. It was a great wake-up call to our race team. We are definitely prepared and better understand what we want out of these cars than we were the first time going to Nashville. That was my first time racing at night at that track.
But we feel very confident and pretty good about this weekend going back to Nashville. It's a fun place to race, one of the most exciting trophies in the whole sport with winning the Gibson guitar. We'll definitely have that on our mind when we show up this weekend.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now go to the media for questions for Elliott Sadler.
Q. Elliott, my question is about Nelson Piquet, Jr. I want to know what impresses you the most about Nelson?
ELLIOTT SADLER: It's the speed that he has. He has a lot of speed in his truck. He qualifies very well. He shows a lot of speed throughout the race. I think that is the quickest thing he's learned, is how to get speed out of his truck everywhere he's been.
I think the first thing he needs to learn is racing in traffic and keeping his truck in one piece, making it to the end. That comes from experience. That comes from confidence and experience racing more and more times this season.
The biggest things that stands out to me is he's very fast everywhere he goes, which a guy going to these tracks a lot of times for the first time, it's hard to do what he's been doing in the qualifying and running up front. I've been very, very impressed with that.
Q. Drivers use a lot of different things to get away from the pressure and the spotlight, get some relaxation or time to decompress. You're an outdoors guy. Tell me about what you get from the time you spend hunting and fishing. Is that something you grew up with with your family, your dad? Where did that come from?
ELLIOTT SADLER: That's an awesome question because we actually had a magazine here this morning doing a story about that. What I told them, I live in Emporia, Virginia. I do not live in Charlotte, around the hustle and bustle of NASCAR.
We love fishing all the time. We play a lot of golf during the summer. We do some farming. We plant soybeans, corn, things like that.
It is the exact opposite of racing a racecar at 200 miles an hour. We're working the ground, working the earth at five miles an hour. During the wintertime we spend a lot of time hunting, outdoorsy stuff.
But that's the way I get my release from racing, that's the way I can get my focus back. If I have a tough weekend, that's the easiest way to rebound, is get away from it, do stuff around the house, do stuff at home with my family. That seems to be the best way to get my mind recharged and my batteries re-energized before we get to the race the next weekend. That's the biggest opposite from racing is to do all that outdoorsy stuff that we are able to do each and every week when we are back at home.
Q. I was wondering how big is it to be going to like a track for a second time, having half a season underneath you.
ELLIOTT SADLER: It's big for us because we know what to expect now. One thing we got to keep in mind here is the Nationwide car is new to the Nationwide Series, this new COT car, but it was also new to KHI. It wasn't like they were a Cup team working on these COT cars for a while, put a Nationwide body on it and there you have it. We had to do a lot of learning, testing, trial and error at the beginning of the season to learn what we like.
Going back to these tracks for the second time, we feel very confident about what we need to do. Ernie and me, my crew chief, just had this conversation Monday morning. Halfway through the season, we're leading the points. Some races we run very good at, some races we've thrown away and did not run good at. We have to take all the positives we can.
But we're in the position we want to be in. We're going back to a lot of these tracks for the second time. We feel very confident about the packages we have. KHI, whether it's a mile-and-a-half track, whether it's a mile track, road course, we feel like we got really good stuff and we're going a make everybody chase us down for the championship.
There's a lot of stuff we discussed yesterday, was going back to these tracks for the second time, because we feel confident now we know what we need.
Q. What do you think is the mood of your guys, the fact that you're leading the points, versus if there was none of this? If you were third or fourth in the points, do you think there's a big difference in the morale or the general attitude of a team when you're leading the points under this new system?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I think it's great. The morale, it's great for me and my confidence, my demeanor, to be involved in this title chase the way we're involved. The last couple years, it just wasn't that much fun racing. I was in a tough situation. We all know that. But to be able to transform and kind of come to this year and have this new attitude, this new outlook to each and every race each weekend, it's been fun for me.
We are leading the driver's standing with third and car owner's standing ahead of the 22 car, Brad Keselowski, ahead of the 60 car. So as far as our team in racing against some of these guys, we've been very consistent. It's like my owner said, Kevin Harvick, we've done a great job of showing the level of our race team as far as top fives are concerned. We're very consistent. We just got to get to that next level now and let's win some races.
But we're having so much fun doing what we're doing and leading the points. We're also trying to win this owner's points, too. We got a good eye on that, too. We're close to where we need to be. We just got to put it all together one weekend.
Q. You mentioned going back to Nashville for the second time. Next month you return to the City of Montréal for the second time. You were up here in April, had a bit of a walk around. Can you speak a little bit about road courses generally. And, when you were up here, you were sixth in standings. You're coming to Montréal next month in a much different situation. How does that change the way you look at that racetrack and what were your impressions of Montréal and the track when you were up there?
ELLIOTT SADLER: The biggest thing that impressed me about Montréal is the last few years watching it on TV was the fans because you know as well as I do the weather you have had during the races there with the rain and things like that. The fans were just into it, very vocal about their favorite drivers, especially their local drivers, Villeneuve, Patrick Carpentier. That is what impressed me the most. 150,000 fans that show up for a Nationwide race in Canada. It was great for our sport. Definitely great for Nationwide Series sponsors.
Road courses to me, as far as your other question, I like road courses. I went to Road America and finished in the top five for the first time. My stats on road courses are pretty good. I did not run Sonoma this year. I think the last 10 races in Sonoma, the last 10 years in Sonoma, we gained the third most points out of anybody in the Sprint Cup Series.
So I'm happy and comfortable with my road course racing and my road course skills. It's going to be a different challenge because Montréal is a very narrow racetrack with not a lot of runoff room. We're looking forward to the challenge.
I'm looking forward to running in front of the Canadian fan base for the first time in my career. Pretty exciting.
Q. The in-car video you picked up from last year, did you shoot video last time you were up here? How useful is that? Some Formula One guys use the PlayStation track before they come up here.
ELLIOTT SADLER: The biggest thing a driver can do is get his line of sight at a racetrack. That is where certain points on the racetrack that I can use as measuring sticks, where to lift, where to get on the gas, where I need to be on the racetrack. That's what I can do as a driver, is make sure I have my line of sight throughout the whole entire course, so when I get there, I know I need to be lifting here, be on the gas here.
I did films, in-car video when I was there. I will use some in-car video from the race last year. I will lean on Max Papis a lot, my teammate, who finished second last year in a KHI car. Probably use all that data all I can. I'll study very hard for that race long before I get there. I'm sure by the time I actually get on that racetrack I'll know where I need to be on the track, then it's just learning the speed of each corner, how fast you can go through there.
Q. How is your French?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Not very good. Some people say I struggle with English sometimes too, being from southern Virginia (laughter).
Q. Elliott, do you feel it's good for the Nationwide Series to have only Nationwide guys eligible for points or would you rather have Cup guys eligible?
ELLIOTT SADLER: It doesn't matter to me. I don't really read into it that much. Not a big deal for me.
I understand why it's done the way it is. I understand why the points system is done like it is, where Nationwide puts so much money, activation, effort into having their own series, they want their own champion. That's the way racing was born and made, grass-roots racing where you had guys running for a Nationwide championship, you had guys running for a Sprint Cup Series championship.
Our job and our motive is to go and run as hard as we can each weekend and get as many points as we can no matter who we race against. I think there's always going to be a debate whether it's good or bad. But actually I like it. I think it's good to have a couple different champions in Nationwide to be able to identify with their own champion, their own drivers making it week in and week out. We'll see how it all plays out when we get to Homestead.
Q. You mentioned you felt the morale is different this year. Do you feel that's the case among a lot of the other Nationwide drivers as well?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Yes, I think so. I think a lot of these young kids coming into the sport, like Turner Motorsports has three guys running for the championship, Justin, Jason, and Dale Jr. Motorsports, Rusty Wallace. You have these teams, younger drivers, it gives them more opportunity to showcase their talent and run for a championship. I think it's good. I think it's good for the sport, good for them, good for sponsors.
You still have to race against the best in the business. The guys that race on Sunday that come and race on Saturday, you're still racing door-to-door with these guys. They're just not getting points. The competitive edge on the racetrack is still there because you have to outrun those guys to get the finishes you want. It's just that the points system is a little bit different.
Q. These changes here to the points structure allow for some opportunities for you that you've taken advantage of. At the beginning of the season with your experience people kind of expected you would be one of these guys in the hunt for the title. Can you explain how you've handled those expectations and how it helped get you to the point where you are at this point in the season?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I honestly loved it. I loved being the guy that everybody was talking about as a threat for the championship. It's cool to be in that talk, in those discussions.
Look, we want to race like that. We want to be the team to beat. We want to be the guy that everybody has to feel like they have to outrun to win the championship.
I think if you ask any competitive stick-and-ball player, football, basketball, baseball, what have you, they want to be that guy. They have to beat us to make it to the playoffs, whatever sport that you're in.
It was a great welcoming experience for me to go from somebody that got ran out of the Sprint Cup Series to be a favorite to win the Nationwide championship in a little bit over two months was actually pretty cool. Everybody was talking about the Nationwide Series, points, who is going to win. It was a good feeling to me to feel like that people still thought we had enough to win the championship and be competitive week in and week out.
It's been a lot of fun. I have a great support team around me. It's not like I'm doing this by myself. So it's good pressure to have. We're going to try to make the most of it. We want to be the team that everybody feels like they have to beat.
Q. What do you like or dislike about racing in Atlanta?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I love Atlanta. I love Atlanta. I think most of the drivers you talk to love that place. The asphalt and stuff has gotten aged. You can race the bottom, middle, top lane. Got a few bumps in it here and there. Atlanta always creates a very exciting race. That's one of my favorite racetracks to go to. Looking forward to going to Atlanta.
Q. Are the nighttime characteristics the same as the daytime?
ELLIOTT SADLER: The track is not as slick at nighttime. I think you can race a little bit better side-by-side. I think the night racing is going to put on a better show than the day racing because there's a little bit more grip and you can complete the passes a little bit better if you have to use the bottom of the racetrack, especially in turns one and two.
I think the night racing is definitely a little bit better to watch as far as from a fan perspective is concerned compared to a day race.
Q. You'll be one of those guys lobbying Ed not to repave it?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I hope they don't repave it. I'm not a big fan of all this repaving going on. I like the old racetracks that has the character built into the track. That's what separates one track from the next, is the way it ages and the way these racecars go around them. Hopefully it will stay like that for a while.
Q. I'm doing a story on parity in NASCAR. In Nationwide there's been 11 winners this year. In the Cup side there's been 13. Have you ever seen it where this many people are winning this many races and being this competitive across the board?
ELLIOTT SADLER: No, I haven't. But I think it's great for the sport. I think it's awesome for our sport. I think it gives teams and drivers an opportunity to win races. This is only my opinion. I think racing has changed so much in the last couple years since the inception of this new car. Some people like it, some people don't like it. We talk about fuel mileage races all the time. We're seeing a lot of that this year.
I just think this is the new NASCAR racing. Goodyear has developed this new style of tires that don't fall off that much. These cars just react so well to clean air and track position is so important, I think the crew chiefs and the drivers that really take a chance on pit strategy and stuff like that at the end of the race really give theirself a good possibility to win races. We're seeing that a lot right now. A lot of the races we're seeing were won by pit strategy, not by the fastest car that led the whole race or what have you.
It's neat to see that. It makes it where these crew chiefs have to keep every aspect of the game in the forefront as far as decisions that they're making.
I think me being a NASCAR fan, not only a driver, but also a fan, likes seeing different drivers in different situations play out each and every week for the win.
Q. Is it because everybody is getting more attuned to this equipment? In the old days you have Petty, Wood, a few guys, that was it on the Cup side. Similar situation in the old Busch Series. Now it seems like there's 20 or 25 guys that could win any weekend.
ELLIOTT SADLER: Yeah, I think this car has a lot to do with it. NASCAR has a lot more tighter grip on this racecar, what you can and cannot do to it. There's a lot less things you can mess with on this car, especially aero-wise compared to the old car. What it does is puts everybody closer together, makes guys run close to the same speed. That's why it's hard to pass in a lot of tracks we go to.
To me the biggest difference is this Goodyear tire doesn't fall off. A lot of people now are doing gas-only stops, two-tire stops. We saw a lot of that in New Hampshire this weekend. A lot of the guys running in the top 10 with 50 laps to go didn't finish in the top 10 because they had to come down and get gas, two tires, what have you, and the track position paid off for the guys that stayed out.
I think the tire is creating a little bit different racing. I just think the parity in this sport is so much better with this car because you can't do as much stuff as you could to it in the past. Everybody is on an even playing field. That's why you're creating so many more chances for different drivers to win.
Q. The weather calls for 97 degrees Friday night, 91 on Saturday, 'feels-like' scale 115. That 115 degrees, if you're sitting outside in the grandstands, that's not if you're in a hot racecar in a fire suit. Is there any way for a driver to prepare for that?
ELLIOTT SADLER: I just think that's part of our job, is getting ourselves ready for this. A lot of us have raced for a long time, our bodies are used to this. This is how we train. This is how we get ready for racing. This is what we do with our bodies to get ready for it.
I love it if it's hot. I'm used to it. My body's used to it. I do a lot of stuff throughout the day outside sweating all the time. I got two softball games this afternoon. It's over a hundred degrees right here and we got two softball games this afternoon.
We do stuff all the time outside to get used to this heat. I think drivers in general know how to train and get their bodies ready to race in this kind of weather.
Q. How would the average person equate to this? Would it be turning an oven on at 400 degrees and sticking your head in front of it?
ELLIOTT SADLER: Just ride around in your car with the heat on instead of the air-conditioning. It's pretty hot inside the cars. I think TV has done a good job this year. I think a few times they used thermostats, I saw Tony Stewart's car, stuff like that, all the things they can do to let people know how hot it is inside these cars, it will let people know what we drivers go through for three or four hours at a time.
People at home can ride around with the heat on instead of the air-conditioning on and give you an idea. Maybe 130, 140 degrees inside the car or truck this weekend.
But it's something we're used to. Something we've been training for for a while.
Q. If we listen to Golden Tate, you're not athletes.
ELLIOTT SADLER: There's some stuff you just laugh at. Some people just don't know a lot about our sport, what we go through. It's not like they can physically watch us inside the car all the time. All they ever see is the car. They don't really ever see what we're doing inside the car, actually the heat of the racecar inside of it.
It's okay. It doesn't bother me. Like I tell everybody all the time, if they feel like we're not athletes, c'mon, get in. This is an equal-opportunity sport, invitation sport, c'mon in and see how easy it is.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Elliott. We appreciate your time today. Best of luck this weekend in Nashville.
ELLIOTT SADLER: Thanks for having me today.
THE MODERATOR: Our final guest today is Austin Dillon. Austin will be driving in both races this weekend as he will compete in the Nationwide Series on Saturday. Austin is second in the NASCAR Camping World points standings and comes off a second-place finish at Iowa this past weekend. In 11 races this season, Austin has captured two poles, three top 5 and five top 10 finishes. And last year, Austin placed second in the event at Nashville Superspeedway.
Austin, you had a strong weekend this past weekend at Iowa. Do you think that provides the team momentum heading into Nashville?
AUSTIN DILLON: We did have a strong weekend at Iowa. That was a place we knew going into, we knew we'd have a shot to win at. Personally I think we had the truck to beat. Everybody saw what happened at our last pit stop that cost us the race there.
We were able to fight back and get a great finish, a second. The past few weeks have been great. Kentucky, Texas and Iowa, we've had great trucks. I'm looking forward to Nashville where we finished second to Todd Bodine last year. Earlier this year, we were running second, and actually spun around. I have a little revenge to come back and get another good finish at Nashville. I'm looking forward to running the 33 Chevrolet this weekend, too, for KHI. I have a blast every time I jump in that Nationwide car. Can't wait. It will be fun.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now go to the media for questions for Austin Dillon.
Q. Austin, it's always tough for young guys to move in and move up in NASCAR. You have the advantage of resources with your family and team and everything. Can you comment on the situation, the economics, the talent, just how tough it is, what it really takes to put the whole puzzle together.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, like you said, economically right now the sport is really struggling to find sponsors and get the younger guys the sponsors they need to get up there. You take what you can get at this point in time and really work hard to make sure you're doing everything the right way to maybe impress someone to get a sponsor out there.
All you can ask for is to run well and keep pushing for those companies, the new companies. You got to hit new companies, try to bring something new to the sport. I think NASCAR is doing a good job exploring other different opportunities and different paths to get these companies excited about new drivers.
I think that's where our sport is going, the younger guys. If we can get some of these young fans interested, the college guys interested out there, there's great development series out there, this rookie class in the Truck Series is unbelievable this year, looking at all the rookies and young guys out there. It's very tough competition.
I think that's why the Truck Series is thriving this year with the support they're getting from their fan base. I think it will keep moving up. We got a great rookie class this year. It's just been a great year for the Truck Series in all.
Q. As far as talent goes, you certainly have some. What have you learned most in the last season?
AUSTIN DILLON: The last season to this season, I really felt going into it we have a great shot at winning the championship. We put ourselves in a good position this year just being able to go back to these places for the second and third time.
Truthfully I feel like we should have three wins by now, at least Iowa. That was definitely a win we needed to have. Had a shot at Kentucky running down Kyle. My grandfather pushed all year this winter saying sophomore slump is something that all drivers get after a good year. I'll tell you what, I don't know if we're having a sophomore slump, but it's been hard to finish this year.
We've done a good job with the bad finishes. We've had great trucks. I'm looking forward to getting over this little hump we've had and going out and finishing some races and getting our first win.
Q. When y'all made the announcement in California that you'll run a Cup race, talking Kansas or Phoenix, I'm curious if you know for sure which Cup race you're going to run.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, it's going to be Kansas. We were able to run that fuel injection car at Kentucky. That was really good for me just to get some laps at a bigger mile-and-a-half. That helped out a bunch. I'm glad we had an opportunity to do that.
But Kansas is going to be the track that we're going to run at. They've actually already started making some souvenirs and stuff for the Cup car. I'm looking forward to it. It will be the No. 98. It looks cool. I think you saw it in California. It looks really good.
Q. Talk about trying to bounce back from what I imagine was a huge disappointment on Saturday.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I felt like I handled it well. I was frustrated after the race. But those guys are out there each and every week, and they make sure my equipment is top-notch. They have my truck clean. I mean, you can eat off of my truck during the week, it's so clean. My suit, my helmet, everything is ready to go every time I get in that thing.
I can't get upset. What happened was on the front changer's gun, he forgot his gun, had to use a different gun that week, and it ended up breaking or something happened where the lugs couldn't come off. He's always prepared and stuff. He does a great job in the shop every week. It was just one of those times where it didn't work out.
I lose spots every now and then on the track. Sometimes it will happen to them. You just got to take it and move on. We were able to get a great finish out of it. Almost had the win. I was door-to-door with him there at the end. I chunked my right front tire after the race. It was gone. I feel like it would have been a different story if we would have started a little closer to the front.
Just got to get over it, go to the next one, know it was a good points day for us and know we're still sitting second in points.
Q. Austin, the heat in middle Tennessee, if you've ever been here in July, it's not just the heat, but the humidity. What are you doing to prepare? Do you think your youth gives you a bit of an advantage over I hate to use the term 'old guys', because I'm one of them?
AUSTIN DILLON: I don't know if youth gives you an advantage in the heat. When it's hot, it's hot. I was listening to Elliott when he was commenting on the heat. There's no way around it. It's going to be hot. You do get accustomed to it after a few of these summer races. Stuff gets pretty easy to you actually, getting in the heat. You're kind of used to it.
I drink lots of water. I also drink Pedialyte during the week to keep myself hydrated. I feel if I can drink all week straight water, it's going to be the best thing for me. Getting out in the heat if you want to, maybe get accustomed to it. I still think when you get in the truck or car, it's going to be as hot as you've been during the whole week.
Q. You were so close last year to winning the guitar trophy. If you win the thing, what are you going to do with it?
AUSTIN DILLON: That's a good question. I'm going to do something fun, I know that. I'm ready to win a race this year. We've been close quite a few times. I'm going to make it spectacular, that's for sure. One of my buddies, he actually just signed a record contract. He's going to be out there. Maybe I'll get him to teach me a few chords, play behind my back. I'm not going to pull a Kyle Busch. Those guitars are way too cool to do that.
Q. This weekend you'll be doing double duty in Nashville. Can you tell us how difficult it will be to do Nationwide and Truck on the same weekend in terms of practice and getting the feel for each vehicle.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I think the biggest challenge will be the heat, just making sure you're staying hydrated. Switching between both cars, they're pretty similar, both the Truck and Nationwide car. You can't drive as hard in Nationwide as you can in Truck because of the downforce from the truck to the Nationwide car.
I enjoy both of them. The cars handle great. KHI has done a great job this year with their Nationwide program. It will be fun to get into that Nationwide car. I've been looking forward to it since I got out of it in Iowa.
Shouldn't be too hard to switch back and forth. I just got to remember my lift in points, and if I can do that, I'll be fine.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your experiences growing up, maybe going to Talladega Superspeedway. You finished eighth there last year.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I feel like Talladega is just a place with so much history. Dale won there so many times, my grandfather. RCR is very successful on the superspeedways. I love going down there. We actually were running fourth on the last lap. I pulled out trying to get somebody to go with me. I learned that you have to stay in line till the last second.
This year ought to be a little different. We'll be more prepared. Got more experience. Had a great truck at Daytona. Ran second there the whole day. Had a shot at the end, got in that pileup.
Talladega is going to be awesome. It's going to be Halloween. It's always special to go out there and hang out with the fans.
Q. Have you ever had any camping experiences out there when you were growing up?
AUSTIN DILLON: Not really when I was younger. But as of like two years ago, I went up there and was able to walk down Talladega Boulevard. If you haven't done that, you have to do that. It's one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Must go check it out.
Q. Talk about Ty's victory there. He was very proud of that victory.
AUSTIN DILLON: Anytime you can hold off and have a victory like that, that was a spectacular victory. Him just charging there at the end, that was so cool to watch. He's the closer as of this year in the ARCA series. He can get it done when it counts. That was a cool victory. He couldn't even see. The windshield was blocked from oil, and he still got it done.
Q. As far as your brother coming up also, could you make a comment on that, what you share together, how he helps you and how you help him.
AUSTIN DILLON: Yeah, I think how I've helped him is just the setups that we've gained from the last two years of running in the series that he's running now. He's got a lot of experience behind him, which is helping him. He just does a good job when he gets in a racecar.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone, for joining us today for our doubleheader with Elliott Sadler and Austin Dillon. Austin, thanks for joining us and best of luck this weekend in both races at Nashville.
AUSTIN DILLON: Thank you.
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