Elton Sawyer brings new elements to his role as NASCAR Competition Director

NASCARThe competition’s newest top official has a lot in common with those who have held the role in the past.

His predecessors spent decades in the sport and were well known throughout the NASCAR garage.

But Elton Sawyer brings something different to his role as NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition.

He is a former driver.

Sawyer wouldn’t say it makes a significant difference. But having that on his back will leave fans wondering if it means a different perspective than the person whose job it is to keep watch in both the pits (technical inspection) and race control (race penalties).

“Because you’re dealing with all the players in the garage – from the owners to the drivers to the crew chiefs to the crew members – and having a general idea and perspective of what their role in it is, I think it’s there can only be one benefit,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer replaces Scott Miller, who has focused on the three national series as the sport’s top official for the past seven years. Miller, like Robin Pemberton before him, worked as a crew chief in the Cup Series. Miller will take a competitive strategic role, focusing on competitive elements of special and new events such as the Clash, the All-Star race at North Wilkesboro Speedway (which will have its first cup event since 1996) and the inaugural Chicago street race.

Sawyer, 63, was a truck driver in the United States for 20 years Xfinity series, raced from 1983 to 2002, winning two races in 392 starts. He also made 29 cup starts in 1995-96

Sawyer has spent the last 20 years working either as a competition director for race teams or at NASCAR.

“I have great memories of my driving career. That was back then, but I also have a passion (for the sport),” said Saywer.

“I look forward to getting up and going to work every day and working with the amazing group here at (NASCAR) and the industry. … I love going to the circuit and looking at the things we’re doing well and the things we’re not doing well and how we’re not doing it well.”

After his driver’s career, Sawyer worked for Red Bull Racing, Evernham Motorsports and the Action Express street racing team, run by former NASCAR competition director Gary Nelson.

Sawyer, who is married to former NASCAR driver Patty Moise, joined NASCAR in 2015 as executive director of the truck series. For the past seven years, he has served as NASCAR Vice President responsible for race event management, transportation, and official training and development.

“(Sawyer) will excel in this role and we look forward to watching him continue to add value to the competitive team at this pivotal era in our sport’s history,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief operating officer , in a press release.

Each person in the role would draw from their experiences, Sawyer said, so he has the driver experience to draw from.

“You can draw from all of this,” Sawyer said. “I think as a crew chief they bring that unique perspective from that scene and draw on the knowledge they’ve gained during that time.

“As a driver, you do the same. I’ve never been a crew chief, but I’ve had these interactions with crew chiefs as a driver. So I think you’re drawing from all of those past experiences, and I’ll continue to do that as I move forward.”

Sawyer said he hopes to build on last season, which saw 19 different cup winners tied, which many are attributing to the next-gen car and preventing teams from uncovering gray areas in the rulebook to gain an advantage.

“I have a love and passion for the sport, no matter the role,” Sawyer said. “I just jumped in and worked closely with the powers and experience you surround yourself with.

“And the most important thing I’ve learned all along is that I want to make sure that when I’m sitting in a room, I’m not the most knowledgeable on the subject – and have people around me who are far more informed and rely on their expertise.”

No matter how much driving experience or experience as a crew chief the NASCAR competition director would have, the nature of the position does not change.

There is one constant: the person in this role is in the spotlight.

“It’s part of the territory. When things go well, the credit goes to our series directors and our officials and our race directors and (the pit lane directors) and the timing and the scoring and all those people,” Sawyer said. “They’re the ones lying on the floor in the middle.

“If things don’t go well then it’s my fault and I’m the one who explains why things don’t go well. I have great confidence in the team we have assembled here.”

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think out loud

There was talk on social media about whether? Travis Pastrana should be eligible for the Daytona 500 considering he has competed in two Xfinity races and two truck races in the past nine years and has never competed in a cup race.

In his two truck races in 2020, he spun on his first in Kansas (and finished 22nd) and then stayed out of trouble when he finished 21st in Las Vegas. These are both high speed circuits and should be enough experience for him combined with his Xfinity experience to show he can handle Cup speeds.

Travis Pastrana on his bid for the Daytona 500

Travis Pastrana opens up about his fans’ excitement about his Daytona 500 bid and if he’s even nervous.

He started fourth and finished tenth in the 2013 Xfinity opener at Daytona. He obviously knows how to qualify, having been on the front row at both Daytona races in the series this year.

As a driver who can drive a car at high speeds in his other forms of motorsport, Pastrana has enough experience to drive in the Cup.

In Xfinity, did he sometimes lose control of the car when a more experienced driver might have known not to push it? Yes. But many drivers do. Pastrana was not known to be a danger on the track as he was slow or intentionally made a move that put another rider in danger. He has done enough – and continues to do so – in various action sports competitions on two and four wheels to justify entry into the Cup race for a Superstar who will draw a lot of attention to the sport.

social spotlight

Statistics of the day

Martin Truex Jr. has led more stages (56) than any other rider in the Cup Series.

You said so

“I don’t want my speech to be too long because most of the people I have to thank are dead.” – Hershel McGriff, 95, during his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsport, including the past 30 Daytona 500, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene Magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpock breedand sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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