Elton Sawyer brings a fresh element to the role of NASCAR’s competition boss

NASCARThe newest senior competition official has a lot in common with those who have had the role in the past.

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

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

He is a former driver.

Sawyer didn’t say that it made much of a difference. But having that on his resume will make fans wonder if it would mean a different perspective than someone whose job it is to oversee both garage (technical inspection) and race control (sanctions in a race).

“As you deal with all the players in the garage—from owners to drivers to crew chiefs and crew members—and have a general idea and perspective on their role in it, I think it can only be helpful,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer replaces Scott Miller, who has spent the past seven years as the chief sportscaster focusing on the three national series. Miller, like Robin Pemberton before him, served as crew chief in the Cup Series. Miller will take on a competition strategist role, focusing on competition elements for special and new events, such as the Clash, the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway (which will hold its first Cup event since 1996) and the inaugural Chicago Street Race.

The 63-year-old Sawyer spent 20 years as a driver for the Xfinity seriesHe raced from 1983 to 2002, winning two races in 392 starts. He also participated in 29 cup matches in 1995-1996.

Sawyer has spent the past twenty years working either as a competition executive for racing teams or with NASCAR.

“I have great memories of my driving career. It was that time, but I also have a passion [for the sport]Sawyer said.

“I look forward to getting up and going to work every single day and working with the great group here in the United States [NASCAR] and industry. … I love going to the racetrack and looking at the things we do well and the things we don’t do well and how we don’t do them well.”

After his driving career, Sawyer worked for Red Bull Racing, Evernham Motorsports, and the Action Express road racing team, which was managed by former NASCAR competition director Gary Nelson.

Sawyer, who is married to former NASCAR driver Patty Moyes, joined NASCAR in 2015 as General Manager of the Truck Series. For the past seven years, he has served as NASCAR’s vice president overseeing racing event management, transportation, official training, and development.

“[Sawyer] He will excel in this role, and we look forward to watching him continue to grow the competition team during this crucial era in the history of our sport,” NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Steve O’Donnell said in a press release.

Anyone in this role would have finished with their experience, Sawyer said, so he has driver experience that can be drawn upon.

“You can opt out of all of those,” Sawyer said. “I think, as crew chief, they bring this unique perspective from that scene, and they’re drawing on the knowledge that they’ve gained over that time period.

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

Sawyer said he hopes to build on last season, which saw 19 different cup winners level out, something many attribute to the next-generation car and prevents teams from exposing gray areas in the rulebook to gain an advantage.

“I have a love and passion for the sport, no matter what role it was,” Sawyer said. “I’m just kind of a dove in the deep end and I work very closely with the powers that be and the experience you surround yourself with.

“And the 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 about the subject — and that I have people around me who are more knowledgeable and rely on them for their expertise.”

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

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

“It comes with the region. If all goes well, the credit goes to our series directors, our officials, our race directors and [pit-road officiating] And the timing and the recording and all these people,” Sawyer said. They are the ones on Earth in the middle of it.

“If it’s not going well, it’s my fault and I’m the one who points out why it’s not going well. I have a lot of faith in the team we’ve put together here.”

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Thinking out loud

There has been some chatter on social media as to whether Travis Pastrana He has to be approved to run the Daytona 500, considering he’s run two Xfinity races and two Truck races in the past nine years and has never raced in a Cup race.

In his two Truck races in 2020, he ran his first in Kansas (finishing 22nd), then stayed out of trouble finishing 21st in Las Vegas. Those two are high-speed tracks and should be enough experience for him, along with his Xfinity experience, to show he can handle trophy speeds.

Travis Pastrana at his Daytona 500 show

Travis Pastrana at his Daytona 500 show

Travis Pastrana discusses his fans’ excitement about the Daytona 500 show and whether he was nervous at all.

He started 4th and finished 10th in the 2013 Xfinity Opener at Daytona. He clearly knows how to qualify, as he was on the front row for both Daytona races in the series that year.

As a driver who is skilled at controlling the car at the high speeds of his other forms of motorsport, Pastrana is experienced enough to race in the Cup.

Did he sometimes lose control of the car in the Xfinity when perhaps the most experienced driver would know not to push it? yes. But many drivers do. Pastrana hasn’t been known as a track hazard so much as being slow or deliberately making a move that puts another driver in harm’s way. He did enough – and still does enough in various action sports competitions on both two wheels and four wheels – to justify agreeing to race in the Cup for a superstar who brings so many eyes to the sport.

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Today’s stats

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

They said so

“My speech should not be long because most of the people I should thank are dead.” —Hershel McGriff, 95, during his induction speech to the NASCAR Hall of Fame

Bob Pokeras covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene, and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobocrassand subscribe to FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pokras.

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