Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 19 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford Fusion, is being sponsored by the Paralyzed Veterans of America this weekend. As part of the Veteran’s Day holiday, Sadler’s car has a special paint scheme that encourages fans to donate on behalf of the PVA. Fans can text ‘4Vets’ to 25383 to make a $10 donation, or can visit www.pva.org/ttg for more information. Sadler spoke about what this program means to him on Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway.
ELLIOTT SADLER – No. 19 Paralyzed Veterans of America Ford Fusion – “It’s neat for me to be able to stand beside Richard Petty and address the crowd and remind them of the vets and what they did for our country. We just had Veteran’s Day and we had a lot of people sacrifice a lot of things in their life to give us the freedom and the hope to do whatever we want to do in this country week in and week out, and especially to be able to race like we are here this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. It’s cool for us to be involved with PVA, the Paralyzed Veterans of America because they do so much for vets as far as rehabilitation, job searching and helping them get their lives going in the right direction. Richard Petty leads so much by example and it’s so neat to be able to stand side-by-side with him for such a great cause. Now we’re getting the fans involved in it and NASCAR fans are the best. Anytime you call or need some help, especially with some charity stuff, they’re always the first to jump in line and do what they can to help. This is a great weekend for us.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY VETERANS IN YOUR FAMILY? “Oh yeah. I definitely have family that served in a couple of different wars and they’ve given their time and commitment to different branches of the Armed Forces. I had a stint with the U.S. Air Force for a couple of years back when I drove for the Wood Brothers and now we have the U.S. Air Force again on the car this year with the 19 car, and now the relationship we have with the PVA. I definitely have a lot of different connections in a lot of different areas and have met a lot of cool people that have fought for our country and given up their lives to help others. Everytime I tell people, if you can just take the time to say thank you to a man or woman in uniform, it just means so much to them. It was a part of my family and I think it’s a part of a lot of people’s families across the United States and it’s something to definitely be proud of.”
YOUR FUSION HAS A NEW LOOK AS WELL THIS WEEK. “It’s beautiful. It’s awesome. They did a great job with the design of it. It’s with and Carolina Blue, which I’m very happy about that. It shows up pretty well on the race track and more than anything to have that Veterans name and logo on our race car is something to be proud of. It’s something our team can cherish and say we were a part of helping vets this weekend.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS WEEKEND ON THE TRACK? “We’ve seen a lot of emotion in our sport the last couple of weeks and we’ve seen a lot of jawing going back and forth, and I think this is part of that ‘boys have at it’ mentality that we talked about even before we went to the Daytona 500. Even guys and past champions that are not involved much more in the chase like a Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon showing their emotions at Texas, to the three guys that are in the chase right now. It’s great racing. I think this is the best year we’ve had in a long time as far as being competitive on the race track with a lot of different winners and a lot of different guys sitting on poles, a lot of different guys leading laps and definitely the closest race we’ve had so far in chase history with three drivers. So there are a lot of cool things going on right now. Phoenix is a very tough race track to pass. Track position is very, very important. The three guys in the championship chase didn’t qualify as well as they probably would have liked, so pit strategy is going to be very big on Sunday. Who knows? That’s why we race. These guys are gonna have to race hard and who knows who is gonna come out with the points lead on Sunday night? We don’t know.”
YOU WILL HAVE TO PASS SOME CARS TO GET TO THE FRONT AS WELL. HOW CAN YOU DO THAT HERE? “You’ve got to have a fast car and you’ve got to be able to turn under the guys in turn one and two and have good forward bite off. We might try some two-tire stuff. We might try staying out every once in a while – any little thing on a short track is definitely magnified because of track position. If you watched our qualifying times, this is the closest qualifying field we’ve ever had on a mile track in NASCAR history, so the competition is very tight. All of the cars are running pretty close to the same speed, so track position and strategy with the crew chief is gonna make a difference on Sunday.”
WHAT SHOULD THE FANS LOOK FOR TOMORROW? “This is close quarters racing. This is a narrow race track, especially coming off of turn four. They’re gonna see a lot of paint being traded and I think they’re gonna see a lot of sheet metal being bent by the end of the day. But I think it’s gonna be neat as far as the championship side of it, you’re gonna see who is gonna be conservative, who is gonna play defense, who is gonna play offense. From the rest of the field, we’re getting towards the end of the season and everybody wants to try to get a win and make a statement to make their teams feel better going into the winter, so I think you’ll see a lot of aggression out there – a lot more taking than giving – so it should be a very good race here at Phoenix. The track gets very slick during the middle of the daytime. The groove is really wide now in turns three and four, so I think you’ll see good, hard racing and you’re gonna see some attitudes and I think you’ll still see that emotion like we saw last week at Texas.”
MAYBE YOU CAN SLIDE YOUR WAY PAST EVERYONE AND GET IN VICTORY LANE. “That’s my plan. We’re gonna go and run the best we can. We are in a position where we can take chances and throw caution to the wind and whatever happens, happens. That’s the attitude we’re gonna have.”