NASCAR on Wednesday named former driver and longtime official Elton Sawyer as its senior vice president of competition, replacing Scott Miller, who will take on the newly formed role as competition strategist.
NASCAR has also announced the promotions of several individuals to key positions within its competition team. John Probst was promoted to Chief Racing Development Officer; Dr. Eric Jacuzzi has been promoted to Vice President of Vehicle Performance; Dr. John Patalak has been promoted to Vice President, Safety Engineering; Brandon Thomas has been promoted to Vice President of Vehicle Design.
“Elton Sawyer has demonstrated incredible versatility over four decades in motorsports,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s Chief Operating Officer, said in a statement from NASCAR. “Following his long driving career, Elton has held key leadership positions for several racing teams and here in NASCAR over the past eight seasons. He will excel in this role, and we look forward to watching him continue to grow his competition team during this crucial era in the history of our sport.”
“We are delighted that Scott Miller has chosen to remain an integral part of his NASCAR competition team. When he joined NASCAR in 2016, Scott gave the job instant credibility. A trusted voice in the garage, Scott has used his decades of experience to lead our competitors team to new heights during A time that saw a new racing format, a new elimination format, a new race car, the mark it makes on the organization is significant.
Sawyer joined NASCAR in February 2015 as Managing Director of the Craftsman Truck Series. Most recently, he served as NASCAR’s Vice President, Technical Inspection and Administrator, a role he took over in 2016. In this capacity, Sawyer oversaw racing event management, transportation, and NASCAR’s official training and development.
In his new role, Sawyer will oversee all aspects of track competition, inspection, rule development, and administration, with a particular focus on NASCAR’s three national series—the Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and Truck Series.
“I’ve been a proud member of this extraordinary team for eight years, and I look forward to continuing to help grow the great competition we’ve had over the past several seasons,” said Sawyer. “NASCAR racing has been my life for decades. I have a deep passion for the sport, and I am honored to be in a position to help a competition team through these exciting times.”
Sawyer began his racing career competing at Langley Speedway in his home state of Virginia. He first appeared on the NASCAR National Series scene in 1983, racing in what is now known as the Xfinity Series. Prior to joining NASCAR, Sawyer served as Director of Team Operations for IMSA’s Action Express Racing. He also previously held competition positions at Red Bull Racing and Evernham Motorsports.
Miller said it was time for a change.
“After more than 40 years driving around race cars week in and week out, it’s time to step back and look at the next chapter of my motorsport life,” said Miller. “I am grateful to the France family and everyone at NASCAR for the opportunity they gave me seven years ago, and I appreciate the opportunity to stay in the fold to help out however and wherever I can. We have a strong team in NASCAR, and I’m excited to stay a part of it.”
Miller’s focus will be on various “big picture” special projects such as the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, and Chicago Street Raceas well as long-term planning around NASCAR’s competition strategy.
Probst, who was recently named Senior Vice President of Racing Innovation, oversaw the development and evolution of the next-generation race car. Probst joined NASCAR in 2016, where he oversees an engineering group that develops and integrates new technology into all aspects of NASCAR competition.
Jacuzzi, who runs aerodynamic engineering for NASCAR, joined the sanctioning body after working as a computational aerodynamics expert for Corvid Technologies. Since joining NASCAR in 2014, Jacuzzi has led the team tasked with designing aerodynamic elements for racing vehicles for all three national series—including the Next Generation car—as well as the Garage 56 car scheduled to run at the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Patalak, who has worked at the NASCAR R&D Center since 2005, oversees NASCAR’s safety team, researching, developing and approving driver and vehicle safety systems. In this role, Patalak also investigates all crashes and driver protection issues.
Thomas joined NASCAR in 2019 afterward as crew chief and engineer with Richard Childress Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Petty Enterprises, Red Bull Racing, and Hall of Fame Racing. Brought into NASCAR to help sponsor the Next Generation project, Thomas has led the day-to-day management of the Next Generation car since the start of the development cycle in 2019.