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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Elliott Sadler stop number 2 of the 2009 ‘No Excuses Tour’—Same song, different verse

California Dreamin turned out to be another California nightmare for Elliott Sadler and his 19 team. The buzz words were already flowing in pre-race and qualifying quotes, almost in an eerie foreshadowing of the Sunday to come.

“We have a lot of effort put into our front clips, front geometry, trying to get the front tires to work as efficient as we can. Some owners may be thinking its body, motors, rear clips, center cage….there are many things that you can work on. Right now we’re really working on our front clips area, bump stop and front geometry stuff. As a team, we think that’s where we need to be better. Right now, that’s where the emphasis has been with winter testing so far.”

Listening via the greatness of PitCommand, it was pretty clear from the start that Sadler was not happy but it goes further than that.

Lap 5 caution (rain)
Sadler after five (really 4) short laps tells CC Kevin Buskirk that there is a problem with the front end by announcing that the 19 car is ‘a little snug in the middle and a little snug back in the gas….and that the splitter seemed to be dragging a bit’, in the corners. After a small exchange that the 19 team finally figured out that the radios used need the ‘big antenna’ in order for Sadler to hear them (maybe the Best Buy Geek Squad should assist) another ‘track position’ pit strategy move instead of making an honest attempt to ‘fix’ an ill handling car, 2 tires and a half pound out of the right rear was the pit call. The 19 entered the pits running 25th, and took the green flag running 21st.

Side note: This caution lasted over 15 laps and it was during this caution that Sadler was asking for the dreaded TRACKBAR change in order to give him some more ‘forward bite’. Since the last pit stop, no green flag laps had been run, and Sadler is already ‘complaining’ about the car. Not that there is anything wrong with this, except for the ‘strategy’ 2 tire stop laps before. Why not simply make the changes, take four tires, lose a few positions , in the name of making the car better in the long run? But I have been a broken record about this for almost a decade.

Lap 35 scanner chat:
Sadler tells Buskirk that the 19 is ‘still dragging the splitter on entry’, and is a ‘little free off’. The 19 car is running 26th at this time.

Lap 41 caution (rain):
Sadler reinforces that the ‘splitter is still dragging too much on entry’ He goes a bit more in depth for his CC with ‘Front end is trying to work, its better than yesterday.’ And lastly again states he wants ‘a little more forward bite on exit’. Buskirk quickly and commandly tells the 19 team to go up on all 4 tire pressures and to add a ‘packer’. (not sure which tire the bump stop was added to though). Sadler added that he didn’t think it would need much, maybe a ‘1/16th’, not much more. The 19 enter the pits running 27th, and took the field running 39th. It was then decided after a nice suggestion by Brett Griffin that it might be a good idea to ‘top off’ because there were only two cars running behind the 19. After topping off, the 19 takes the green flag running 40th.

Just before taking the green scanner chatter:
Buskirk wants to clarify; ‘As I understand, you were tight from dragging the splitter, not chassis tight right’? Sadler responds with a not very confident, ‘I think so’.

Lap 48 scanner chatter (running 35th)
Sadler; ‘I don’t know if the bump did anything, but I think it took a lot of the rear grip away’. No response on Pit Command

Laps 66 scanner chatter (running 34th)
Sadler states that the 19 ‘is not driving as good as it did the last run. Don’t know if is the tires or that bump stop.’ Buskirk answers; ‘I hear ya, we are gunna make a change.’

Lap 85 green flag stop: (running 31st)
Buskirk calls for 4 tires and one round down on the TRACKBAR (something Sadler was calling for since the first caution) The 19 cycles through pits stops running 33rd.

Lap 88, the 19 goes one lap down running 32nd.

Lap 91 scanner chatter (running 31st)
Sadler; ‘Still just way on the splitter on low pressures’.
Buskirk; ‘Just give us what you got, I know its bad’. (someone give Kevin a pom pom next time!)

Lap 95 scanner chatter (running 31st)
Sadler; ‘Not sure what changes we made, but I cannot use the brakes, the more I use the brakes the more the car slids.’
Buskirk; ’10-4’ (followed by some more cheer leading)

Lap 105 scanner chatter (running 31st)
Sadler; ‘the car doesn’t like the changes…..grip, slide, grip, slide’.

Lap 109 scanner chatter (running 31st)
Sadler; ‘We done something to this thing, the front end is really gone’.
Buskirk; ‘All we was a little air pressure adjustment and down one on the TRACKBAR.’

Lap 121 green flag stop (running 31st)
Sadler wanted to pit a few laps earlier and stated he was worried about the right front tire wear.
The pit called for 4 tires, one round up on the TRACKBAR (the ‘180’ from the pit stop at lap 85, so take a drink in the Elliott Sadler Drinking Game). After pit cycles through, the 19 is still running 31st. Buskirk notes to Sadler that the ‘tires were perfect, just perfect’.

Lap 130 scanner chatter (running 31st)
Buskirk waves his pom poms once again by stating, ‘hang in there bud, we can make something out of this day. ‘

Lap 141 caution (rain, running 31st)
Sadler; ‘Front end not working like I need it to, when I am on the brakes. Its just not doing what I need it to do….I think we need to be thinking about strategy, do the opposite of what everyone else does……..it’s just bound up on the front end on entry, a little free up off……I would rather have the free off.’
Buskirk; ‘Well I don’t know what is going on, if it (the splitter) is hitting the RF or hitting the LF.’ At this point, Buskirk is almost begging Sadler to give proper communication of what the car is doing. Sadler still could not give a good answer. The 19 pits, 4 tires, and takes the packers back out (another ‘180’, take a drink). Buskirk asks the 19 crew to take a bit of extra time, to check the splitter to see where the dragging is.

Back to green lap 151 running 33rd.

Lap 153 scanner chatter (running 33rd)
Sadler; ‘Is the splitter hitting?
Buskirk; ‘It was hitting on the left front.’

Lap 168 scanner chatter (running 31st)
Sadler; ‘Too tight in the middle, still sliding the nose…..what ever we are doing to it, its just bad.’

Lap 170 caution (running 31st)
Buskirk; ‘Got a lot of air in the front end, we can take that out.’
Sadler; ‘okay, do you think that will help me off?’
Now Sadler is not so concerned about the ‘front end’, and the tight entry and middle, but has more of a problem with the car getting looser off the corner.

Long caution (rain) and the 19 finally pits with one to go on lap 175 for 4 tires, down on the front pressures (no other changes mentioned)

Lap 198 scanner chatter (running 29th)
Sadler; ‘‘Do we have anymore room in the front tires, I would like more of that, and maybe something to help the exit’

Lap 206 scanner chatter (running 29th)
Buskirk; “we are gunna pit in 7 laps’
Sadler; ‘need help in the center, and forward bite off’
Buskirk; ‘We have a plan’

Lap 207 caution (running 29th)
Buskirk; ’ save gas…all the time under caution’ followed by some more cheerleading, ‘I can tell you a trying, I appriciate it.’
Sadler; ‘I am trying but there is something about this front end’
Buskirk; ‘Okay so we ARE better than yesterday right?’
Sadler; ‘Oh yeah, we are way better, I don’t know if this tire is different from Rockingham, or what.’

I still will question how data from a 1 mile track that has a reputation that ‘eats’ tires, can translate to a two mile superspeedway with long sweeping turns, and speeds that reach 200+ mph.

restart lap 215 (running 25th)

Lap 227 scanner chatter (running 26th)
Sadler; ‘we just really unhooked the back, there is just not much I can do with it’ (loose car)
Buskirk; ‘just do the best you can’
Sadler; ‘I feel like I am killing the right rear.’
Buskirk; ‘the tires have been great’

Lap 232 scanner chatter (running 26th)
Sadler; ‘I just can’t get it any gas’
Buskirk; ‘its okay, those are good laps’

lap 235 scanner chatter (running 26th)
Sadler; ‘My right rear is gone, sorry, this last adjustment we just changed the balance of the car a bunch’

After the 8 car blows up, the 19 car is now running 25th and finishes the race in that position.

Post race scanner chatter (finished 25th)
Buskirk; ‘What did we do to the car on last stop’
Sadler; ‘I think the air out of the LR made it looser, extremely loose on exit.’
Buskirk; ’10-4, I’ll write that down’.

So the word of the day was ‘front end’, well maybe this is simply ‘excuse number 1’ in the early season. Lets hope not. It's on the Las Vegas!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Another Failed Bit

It was just a little less than a year ago when Elliott Sadler, along with a few sidekicks used their influence and went public with their nationwide sales pitch for ‘Sheridan Ridge’. This week we now find that all five have either pulled out completely or filed quick claim deeds in order to recoup the original investment. Needless to say, this latest venture in which Sadler made claims of “it’s going to be great”, is just another in a long list that can be trashed with the likes of VLP, Infield Parking, MySpace and even the Sadler Fan Club.

I guess it was questionable enough that this resort’s website hosts pictures of existing completed buildings and such, we now found out that although the subdivision plats and erosion and sediment control plans were filed and approved by Smyth County more than a year ago, there has been no construction on the site. So where are these beautiful buildings that are on this site?

Of course, when eventually ask, I am sure that Sadler will fall back on the old standby justification that it ‘wasn’t his fault’, and that he ‘had no control’ over the situation, even though as being named ‘Advisory Board Member’. Sadler himself spoke last summer and comment about the ‘commitment’ to the ‘buildings’ that they are building and such, but it is getting clearer that Sadler was simply ‘shilling’ the product.

Also this week, there were a handful of Sadler quotes concerning what he would do if he wanted to get more fans in the seats at Fontana.

"I would go to every Boys and Girls Club, the Girl Scouts, middle school -- give away tickets, give them a chance to come to this race that might not have come before. You might make a fan; you might not. If you don't make a fan, what have you lost? You really haven't lost anything, because you didn't have anyone in the seat anyhow.

"If you gain a fan, you maybe gain a couple tickets for next year. That's my Emporia (Va.) opinion, which is not worth two cents out here in Los Angeles, California."

Not that this is a bad idea at all, but just as Eddie Gossage fired back at Dale JR last month for JR’s opinion that ‘tracks should do more for the fans’. I think it is fair to ask Elliott Sadler the same question and give him an opportunity to show just what added value has he added to his fans, and more specifically his fan club, over the past few years.

In 2004, (probably the peak of Sadler’s fan club and trackside popularity) his fan club annual dues were $10 for a single membership. Today that same package will cost you $25. Also in 2004, access to the Fan Club’s message board where many fan offers and personal insight from both Sadler and his spotter/PR Brett Griffin was free of charge. Today one has to become a fan club member to access these posts.

Before that, Sadler’s fan ‘appreciation day’ was a free ‘come as you are’ event and was truly directed at the fan. Today this event has become a commercial spectacle costing fans a minimum of $25 just to get on the property. If one would want to feel truly appreciated, that comes with a fee upwards to $250. For someone that just a few years ago would have much signage and fan sightings at trackside events and grand stand events, it is interesting to see the lack there of these days.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand everything comes with a price, but when one is willing to give advice at no expense of his own, one should be ready for some backlash. Eddie made that very clear to JR and JR also responded and the fans a better for it.

That being said, The changes to Sadler’s website ElliottSadler.com have been enjoyable to see. I also (along with others) have been critical of previous releases of this site, but there seems to be someone that is ‘getting it’. While the site is not full of bells and whistles, it is easy to navigate, and seems to be emphasizing content. The ‘news’ section is still pretty generic, but it does give a central location that is updated in a timely manner with pre and post race/qualifying quotes can be found along with race recaps. The added fan question section is a nice touch as well. While the ‘fluff’ pieces in the new video section are probably not for me, it is also a nice added touch that many might enjoy. So kudos for the Sadler camp for the change, and hopefully it will continue.

Caly race recap should be up on Wed, it was interesting.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Elliott Sadler stop number 1 of the 2009 ‘No Excuses Tour’ – Is the glass half full or is it half empty?

Breaking down the roller coaster ride for the ‘Southern Gentleman’ that was also known as the Daytona 500 last Sunday afternoon and a few other notable items:

After the ‘Duals’ and the post race comments by Sadler where the claim was made that they were ‘laying back’ to help a teammate get into the 500, I was perplexed a bit and had a few questions. While I didn’t take the best of notes, I do remember it no time was the 44 car (A.J. Almendinger) found itself actually behind the 19 car. Even after the final caution the 44 car was restarting well ahead of the 19. So the term ‘laying back’ might have been a bit of mis-information, although it was pretty obvious that when the 44 did get hung out, the 19 was very willing to hang with him and be a nice pusher. Props to the 19 for that and that makes the glass half full at this point.

That being said, it was on to the ‘500’ and all the hoopla that goes with it and a few observations:

Lap 25 competition caution:
After the competition caution on lap 25 (actually the 2nd caution of the day) Sadler was complaining that the car was doing much the same as it was in the Duals, which was the car, was pushing in the corners. Not as bad as Thursday, but non the less, the car was not what Sadler wanted. New CC Kevin Buskirk, pulled from his bag of tricks something that 48 CC Chad Knauss does almost every race, which was to tweak the inner liner pressures. (This is something that has been very successful for the 48, but used very rarely by any of the plethora of former Sadler CCs. Even with the 55 car not helping by stopping short in his pit box and the 19 team having to push the car back just a bit in order for Sadler to exit the stall safely, the 19 entered pit road running 16th, and when the green flag fell, remained 16th. That’s a half full glass if I ever saw one.

One interesting note was that after the stop and before taking the green flag, Sadler was already asking for a ‘little wedge’ before even seeing the results of the previous stop.

Lap 51 scanner chatter:
Sadler asked Buskirk if they could ‘go any further on the front inner liner pressures’ (Me thinks Sadler was liking the direction the changes were going) and Buskirk answered with, ‘we have a lot more room’.

Sadler then does something that I have been critical of him for years. He tells Buskirk to ‘give him a little more of that (inner liner pressure change) BUT THEN the ‘greedy’ Elliott comes out. He then asks for a ‘little more grip on entry…..maybe track bar’. A confused Buskirk asks for a clarification by saying, ‘rear grip?’ At that point Sadler brushes the wall and the focus is changed to if there was any significant damage to the 19 car. Brett Griffin quickly responds always the optimist with ‘you are good, letters still on the tires’. Again, we have a half full glass!

Lap 55 caution:
A quick exchange between driver and CC before the stop, the plan is four tires, and again going with more front inner liner pressures and Buskirk agrees to make a track bar change to ‘help the rear’. The 19 entered pit road running 17th and took the green flag running 16th, another great stop considering the 19 team also popped the right front fender out a bit (from brushing the wall) and according to Buskirk, ‘everything is perfect’. Also it was at this stop that driver and CC had good communication concerning the impending weather with Buskirk reminding Sadler that ‘weather was coming, and a lot of it’. Sadler obviously thinking some strategy asked if they would ‘get to lap 114’, and Sadler was assured they would along with some encouragement from Buskirk. That’s another half full glass.

Lap 76 scanner chatter:
The 19 car is having a slight bit of over heating issues and Sadler smartly is getting out of the draft occasionally to help cool the engine.

Lap 80 caution:
Sadler complains that the 19 is a ‘little bit tighter’ (something the team was fighting all week) and Buskirk explains that ‘everything is the same’ but he also questions that the track bar change maybe part of the problem. Sadler agrees, and wants the trackbar changed back to where it was before the last stop (see the Elliott Sadler Drinking Game, and take a drink). The 19 entered pit road running 22nd and took the green flag running 24th. Buskirk tell s Sadler that there was some ‘trash on the grill’, but they also ‘pulled one row of tape, but it shouldn’t matter much’ where the 19 was racing. Sadler didn’t sound like he was buying what Buskirk was saying though. For the first time in 2009 the glass is half empty.

Lap 100 scanner chatter:
Sadler feels that the ‘tape hurt him a lot and made the car pushy’ (although it has been that way all week) Buskirk attempts to encourage Sadler by telling him that he is ‘doing a great job. He also asks for temps, but I never heard an answer.

Lap 107 scanner chatter:
Buskirk asks again for temps, and this time Sadler responds with ‘230/250’. Griffin chimes in with a well timed reminder that ‘rain is coming’, but also adds that there is a ‘long ways to go’. At this point on lap 107, the 19 car is running 11th, the highest the team had been in the running order all day. That glass is filling back up.

Laps 115 – 117 green flag stops begin:
Lap 115 saw the first cars coming in for green flag stops, but these stops were really a bit early. Tire issues being a concern I guess. But on lap 117, Sadler’s voice came over the scanner in an almost panic mode, that he ‘had a vibration’. Less than a straight away later, Sadler announces he is ‘coming in this time by’, Buskirk agrees. At that point the whole race changed for the 19, as Sadler entered pit road, we all hear the voice of Griffin proudly announcing that the ‘caution was out’! We have heard for years that Sadler just has a lot of ‘bad luck’, but this event alone might make up for all of them as now the 19 when the race goes back to green will restart the race in ‘P1’, and frankly giving the team a realistic chance to win the Daytona 500. Now that’s another half full glass!

Lap 124 caution, the ‘big one’:
At this point, I thought there might be a great chance that the ‘ever coming’ rains would actually happen with the 19 at pace speed just behind the pace car and then making a trip to victory lane. But by lap 132, the race did indeed go back to green with the 19 leading the field.

Lap 139 green flag scanner chatter:
Sadler must have been feeling the pressure from the cars behind and vented his frustration about the weather by saying, ‘just my luck Kevin, rain on the radar, no rain on the track’. Buskirk made huge kudos with this race fan when the CC ‘spanked’ Sadler for his comment by saying, ‘don’t be like that….we have had some great luck today’. Buskirk would be most correct with this statement, and I am guessing that when Sadler reflects on the race, there were some extraordinary things that happened to his favor, but just not the end result.

A lap later, coming off turn four, Sadler saw that the 17 and 29 car were going to make a good run and Sadler had a 50/50 choice to make of which line he was going to run exiting the tri-oval. We will never know which decision would have been better, and that is not the point. The point is that for a first leg of a marathon season, the 19 team as a whole performed well and not simply because of the end result. From the pre-race prep, to pit stops, to spotting and help missing a potential race ending wreck, to the driver showing smarts and patience and thinking big picture, this was a great effort over-all, and even would have been had the 19 finished 20th.

Post race
Yes, Sadler looked and sounded like a beaten puppy dog in his post race presser, but that to shall pass. We all have seen Sadler tug at the heartstrings in the passed for the sympathy vote, and is getting just that with some of the fans with not x chromosomes. That’s expected. Just a guess, but when Sadler finally returned to his motor coach Sunday night, had a couple of cold ones, there was some good reflection of the events known as the '500' before boarding his jet Monday morning for the trip back to Statesville. But it is on to California and frankly a track that can be used as a benchmark for teams of where they are at in relation to others. But after week one of the ‘No Excuses Tour’, the glass is clearly half full.

Later this week, some interesting fan's reactions to the 'last lap' pass and some pretty good changes on the revamped ElliottSadler.com pages.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Quick hits on the Bud Shootout

1) The C.O.T. at plate tracks.

I remember the first COT plate race at Dega a little over a year and a half ago and how many complained that the COT was not race able at a plate track. Knowing the Dega and Daytona are very different in terms of car setup, I will throw this out there. I truly loved the way the COT cars handled on the very bumpy plate track last Saturday night. The cars were squirrelly, but not in an overly dangerous way. It was obvious that the cars were a handful, but that also contributed to the action on the track, and gave just another reason for the more skilled drivers to move to the front, not just the driver who happens to have the most aerodynamic car.

2) NASCAR’s version of John Madden

It has been a nice couple of months not having to listen to anything Jimmy Spencer has to say. Has there every been anyone in a NASCAR pre-race show say so much, yet adding so little to a broadcast? I should have known better to tune into Speed’s pre Shootout coverage, but I honestly thought after a couple month lay-off, he would have brought something useful to the table. I was wrong again. Maybe Frank Caliendo should add a ‘Spencer’ to his repertoire.

3) Elliott Sadler grade card

While his night was cut short, it really shouldn’t be considered a failure night for the driver of the 19. After getting shuffled to the rear of the lead draft, Sadler was battling a slightly looser car than he would have like, but from his post race comments, it appeared that there was a plan in place. The more fuel the 19 burn, the more the car seemed to ‘come to him’. But just as an ‘mismatched’ bump draft that ended M. Waltrip’s day from Sadler, Sadler’s day himself was ended in a similar way by David Stremme. It should be noted that Sadler was very gracious in his post race comments, and pointed no fingers. So while Sadler DNF’ed this race, if this race were to count on the scorecard, I would have graded it a solid B-. But grades don’t start to count until next Sunday.

4) Anonymity on the message boards?

Not directly Bud Shootout related, but note worthy anyway. I mentioned on this blog a couple of years ago the comedy and out right libel that was prevalent on the ‘Elliott Sadler Topix Forum’. Seems that 100s of anonymous posters from another TOPIX forum are now being targeted in class action lawsuit and now a Tarrant County judge has ruled that their true identities and IP address’ be revealed and turned over to the courts. Looking at the history of the TOPIX Elliott Sadler forum and some of the claims made there, it is pretty clear that a handful of ‘Sybils’ from Richmond, New Jersey, Louisiana, Atlanta and even Emporia should be concerned simply because of their written styles and claims. TOPIX has 30 days to comply with this court order and it will be interesting to see if there is any 'spill over' to other Forums. From what I have been reading, even when the posters ‘Tor’ in attempt to hide their IP address, it can be traced. History shows that Sadler is not afraid to turn to the courts to get his way, and frankly, it is about time for that place.

On to the big dance on Sunday. It has begun!

Friday, February 06, 2009

2009 Elliott Sadler; The ‘No Excuses’ tour begins Saturday night

In ten or so years of full time Cup driving, Elliott Sadler has run the gambit when it comes to on track performance or lack there of. He has also run the gambit with the excuses for this performance. But after this eventful off-season, if he was smart, Sadler should bill this upcoming season as the ‘No Excuses’ Season.

And before this season even commences, lets put some of these excuses to rest, and to be fair, many of these excuse have not come from the driver of the 19, but from his official fan club members.

1) The ‘We just need some time to get the driver/Crew Chief communication down, so every knows what I want in a car’.

One only needs to read Sadler’s pre-season quotes about his crew chief for 2009.

“For anyone out there who isn’t familiar with Kevin Buskirk you will be very soon. Kevin’s worked with some of the best in the business. He worked with me in 2004 on the No. 38 team at Yates when we won three poles and two races and made the Chase. He won the Daytona 500 as an engineer on the No. 29 team at Richard Childress Racing in 2007. The guy flat out knows what he’s doing and we are thrilled that he came over to join us for 2009.

Now I do think the Buskirk is a great choice for Sadler’s CC, especially after losing Childers. However, on the flip side, he only has a handful of race calling the shots on the pit box. Over all, Sadler is beaming with confidence about his new crew chief, so scratch that excuse.

2) The “If only Elliott was getting the same equipment as Kasey’ or ‘getting competitive equipment’ over-all.’

Brett Griffin has already been quoted on a previous blog that the equipment is pretty much equal each week. But the rub is what the team and driver does with that equipment. It was good enough for the 9 car to earn a few appearances in victory lane, and we all know that earning a chance to victory lane is a priority and a benchmark of 'season success' for Sadler.

3) The ‘because of the firing and then re-hiring, the 19 team and owner will see to it that Sadler will not have a chance to perform well on Sundays, after-all they don't want him driving anymore’.

Break out all the Tin Foiled Hats you want, but this conspiracy just won’t hold any water, especially in these economic/sponsor times. The risk/reward simply is not there. But Sadler himself squelches this theory with this quote.

“The No. 19 Dodge team has a lot to prove this year. We are coming in with a big, and when I say big—I mean HUGE chip on our shoulders and we want to make sure that we are competitive each and every week of the season. There is no room for error and each and every member of this team is going to be held accountable. The No. 19 team has been given the tools to be successful and now it is up to all of us to use those tools and get this car competitive and into victory lane.”

Remember the words from the driver himself, ‘each and every member of the team is going to be held accountable’. If ten or so races into the season, one of the other Richard Petty Motorsports cars is having sponsor issues but is getting results on Sundays, don’t be surprised to see a ‘sponsorship change’ in mid season.

4) The ‘if only we could get rid of this bad luck’.

This most likely is the worst excuse of all time, as how soon we all forget the races where you have good luck. The races where fuel mileage came into play, or when attrition came into play for top 10 finishes. Yes, bad luck can happen, but there is not one driver/team that over the course of a full season experiences any more or less bad luck than anyone else.

Let the season begin, and let the results speak for themselves. 2009, the year of no excuses! I'm keeping score, are you?

post script: I am thinking that the Sadler Fan Club should have 'No Excuses' T-shirts printed up, just as a reminder!