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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.

1 comment:

Vroom said...

Howdy Lugnut!

The race was fun in person...dominted by Shrub and Gordon, Sadler will replay that last lap forever...to think that Kenseth led from turn one to turn three only...and took home the trophy!

I posted some vroom photos!