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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Did Elliott Sadler really keep a straight face?

There is damage control, and then there is Sadler Damage Control and yesterday the NASCAR Nation was treated to a taste SDC.

Damage control is the term used in the Merchant Marine, maritime industry and navies for the emergency control of situations that may hazard the sinking of a ship.

Examples are:
* rupture of a pipe or hull especially below the waterline,
*damage from grounding (running aground) or hard berthing against a wharf,
* temporary fixing of bomb or explosive damage.

Sadler Damage Control is the use of a controlled press conference to air ‘his side’ of his professional and personal issues.

Examples are:
*Claim that you were ‘blind sided’ yet you were told this was a possibility of a driver change almost a month prior
*Claim that you ‘don’t think it is fair to say that the team didn’t want me’, all the while this very same team told you to ‘entertain any other offers’.
*Saying it was a ‘family situation’ while allowing your lawyer to name people in a potential suit that you haven’t even respected enough to speak with them one on one.
*After the fact, saying that your employers were ‘very fair and up front’ yet suing to keep your ride, then later saying it was his lawyers ‘strategy’ and his was simply trusting him.
*Comparing other sports such as football and baseball and key personnel changes but omitting that those changes do not involve any type of court case.
*Lastly, claim to be taking the ‘high road’.

A couple of odd observations I came away with from this press conference; 1) When Sadler was commenting on the ‘legal’ threats and such, he would say that he had to ‘protect MY sponsors’, then when speaking about the 19 team and the future the tune changed to ‘OUR sponsors’. 2) Sadler commented a couple of times that he feels that a few of hierarchy in the GEM food chain are truly ‘Sadler Fans’. Note to Elliott, being a ‘fan’ and taking an honest and realistic evaluation of performance must be segregated. While I am still your fan, I am also honest about your on track performance.

Those were just obvious examples of the Sadler spin and damage control tactics that this blog has been pointing out for years. But Sadler also said some very significant things about his 19 team and the upcoming season that might get over looked.

“We've got our team headed in the right direction. We feel like we've got a handle on things in the direction we want to go.”

This could simply be another example of the ‘pre-season’ Sadler glad handling, but by saying this he is building a case for a ‘no excuses season’.

“The reason why I really wanted Kevin is the history we had together already. If we had a chance to go get another crew chief or another person that I hadn’t worked with before, of course there would be some type of learning curve that would take longer than what Kevin and mine is going to be.”

So would it be fair to throw out the ‘learning curve’ excuse for the first third of the season then? Sadler made numerous comments about how familiar to two were/are.

“History shows you have to be successful in the first seven or eight races to have a legitimate chance of making the Chase.”

Just for fun, lets take a look at Sadler standings after the first 7 races:
2008 – 20th in driver points (finished 24th)
2007 – 16th in driver points (finished 25th)
2006 – 12th in driver points (finished 22nd)
2005 - 8th in driver points (finished 13th)
2004 - 5th in driver points (finished 9th)
2003 – 20th in driver points (finished 22nd)

So it looks like Sadler has some stats to back up his claim and understanding how important the first 7 or so races are. The reason why this is ‘key’ is the A.J. Allmendinger has sponsorship for only 7 points races so far this season. Sadler’s statement alone would be ‘justification’ for a driver change around race 7 of Allmendinger somehow was in the top 15 or so in points, while Sadler was in the 20s. Just a speculatory thought!

“Last year we were trying to - because Kasey had some really successful runs, and we all want to work together as close as we can. But mine and Kasey's style are just not the same. We just do not drive the car the exact same. We hold the steering wheel a little different. It would be like Tiger Woods playing golf with Phil Mickelson's golf clubs with the same shafts in them. You try to do the same thing, but it's just not tailored to what I was trying to do.”

This is not an excuse for last season’s results be any means, but the fact that Sadler and his new crew chief understand the differences is key. We already know that the equipment between the 9 and 19 is the same and verified not only by Sadler, but his spotter (Brett Griffin) and others associated with the team last season. But now the team is identifying ‘how to use’ that equipment to the best advantage. While this may have been attempted in the past, this is one of the first times in Sadler’s career where they have openly admitted this approach. This can only be a good thing.

“I do know A.J.'s and Kasey's style are very close, probably more than what mine and Kasey's are.”

Another ‘justification’ for a driver change? I seem to remember that Ray Evernham himself thought that Elliott and Kasey had ‘similar’ styles and one of the reasons for Sadler joining the 19 team in the first place, but I guess over time that theory was found to be untrue.

“As we move forward with four teams, I think generally all the cars will be built alike, but each crew chief is going to have to put his own little bit on it to give the driver what he needs.”

Again, the equipment is the same, this is important to remember come ‘excuse time’.

“I'm the senior member of the team; I have to be the leader of the team and initiate conversation and make sure we're all on the same page and stuff like that. I don't foresee any problems going on with A.J. and I. I like his style; he's very aggressive. He's a good guy to be around. We have had our differences, but you know what, I played on a lot of sports teams growing up, and I think any time you get competitive people fighting for the same real estate, you're going to have some type of differences of opinion.”

This is a huge step in the right direction and one that Sadler should be commended for. It does make sense that he would not have much of an opportunity to speak to A.J. during this off-season, as there would be little reason for A.J. to be at the GEM garage since he is/was technically still a free agent.

“I think that's every team's goal (to make the Chase) at the beginning of the season. I think we can make it happen. I have that much confidence in Kevin who we brought in as a crew chief, and a lot of things are going to have to go right for us, but we can do it. We can be a part of that.”

There is nothing wrong with setting lofty goals. But just don’t ‘give up’ once you realize that the goal has become unattainable.

“Well, I'll tell you what, statistics don't lie no matter what you're talking about or who you're talking about. Not having a Dodge in the Chase I think means that, yeah, we have fallen behind a little bit. Does that mean it's the manufacture's fault? No, it's not. It means us as Dodge teams have to do a better job, whether it's working together more or figuring out more information to run faster.”

Be careful saying that ‘statistics don’t lie’, if you honestly believe that, then you are saying to everyone that you are an ‘average middle of the pack driver with one banner year under his belt in a decade of racing’. Remember, this is a ‘no excuses’ season coming up!

“Maybe I've lost some of that confidence maybe from some of the media and stuff in the sport, but I want to gain that back. I want to be a top tier driver in this sport, and I've got to get my butt in gear and I've got to do good and race hard each and every lap and make that happen. This is the best motivation I've had in a long, long time to make sure when I start at Daytona to start off on the right foot and do the best job I can.”

Yes Elliott, it is put up or shut up time. The clock is ticking.


Anonymous said...

Sadler is delusional and so used to talking smack that he actually believes himself.

Time will tell....

Will he threaten to sue when he is fired after non performance in the first seven races, or does he really think his team will be forced to let him compete BECAUSE HE HAS A CONTRACT?

Frankly, the Southern Gentleman has become a yarn-spinning bore and those who believe him and believe in him are pitiable.

Being encouraged to "explore other opportunities" does not sound like a vote of confidence.

The wonder of it all is how Elliott Sadler continues to have confidence in himself.

Anonymous said...

If the stats don't lie, then GEM should be looking at Sadler's history in the last ten races of each year. He spirals downhill during that time frame. Lack of focus? Maybe! Tired from a long season? Maybe! But the stats tell the truth, Sadler does not have much in the way of staying power! Sadler does need to be prepared, AJ could be the next person in the seat of the 19!

Deborah said...

I expect that drivers and teams are going to engage in spin and damage control but I thought Elliott made himself sound ridiculous. I almost felt like my intelligence was being insulted that he (or whoever coached him) expected me to believe that filing an intent to sue was just getting legal advice, that you sue over a "family disagreement" or that it's incorrect to say that the team didn't want him. I also can't stand it when teams/drivers/sponsors try to blame the media - it's not the media's fault his team seriously considered getting rid of him or the results haven't been very good for him recently. Drivers and teams think they're doing good when they spin things like this, that fans are willing to swallow whatever they're told and then only think happy thoughts, but people don't like feeling like they're not being told the truth and it hurts more than it helps.

Anonymous said...

I had been a Sadler fan myself but I've come to realize that the Sadler "Fan Club" is just a big money grab,which essentially is what his "fan club" is. When you must pay a fee just so you can have access to his message board,that's simply not right. No other fan club I know of does that. Nobody,except the Sadler Fan Club,does that. And then pay $250 just to "meet and greet" for an autograph and few if any words at his "barn party",not worth it. Thanks for helping me see the light on this charlatan. Why the NASCAR media and a lot of naive fans think so highly of him is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

Here's a prediction...

David Gilliland replaces Sadler in the #19 after the "Southern Charlatan" has a miserable start to the season. History repeats itself.

You heard it here first!