Sawyer Goes Sports Car Racing
November 18, 2010 | 11:58 A.M. EST
Sawyer will be taking on the role of Director of Race Operations for Action Express Racing. (Photo: Grand Am)
DENVER, N.C. – After many years of turning left, stock car veteran Elton Sawyer decided it was time to make a right turn and go sports car racing.
For 20 years, the native of Chesapeake, Va. made his living racing on ovals in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. For 2011, Sawyer will work with a different form of racing, taking on the role of Director of Race Operations for Action Express Racing.
He will work under team principal Bob Johnson and team manager Gary Nelson, running a pair of Daytona Prototypes in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.
“I know the racing is a completely different mindset from what my background was, but what I have learned to date is that it’s all about the people,” Sawyer said. “That’s how I felt coming into this opportunity; it was going to be working on putting the right structures and procedures into place to make sure that everyone is successful. The terminology is a little different – these cars have understeer while the stock cars pushed – but really, they’re saying the same thing. It’s just a matter of learning the terminology and being able to communicate with the engineers and mechanics.”
Sawyer began racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 1983. He competed in 392 races, winning two races and two poles along with 131 top-10 finishes. He placed fifth in the championship in 1998, 1999 and 2001. He also drove in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, running in 29 races in 1995 and 1996. He has a limited road racing background, running a handful of races at Road Atlanta and Watkins Glen.
After running his last race in the 2002 Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Sawyer worked as a driver coach for Red Bull Racing, and worked up to become the team’s competition director until the opportunity to join Action Express came along.
“Action Express was looking for a director of racing operations, and that’s a pretty similar job description to what I had been doing,” Sawyer said. “I got to talking with Gary Nelson, and I’m looking forward to working with him to bring Action Express the wins and championships that we’re building for.”
Action Express remains based in Denver, N.C., although the team recently moved into a new shop.
Sawyer will be in the spotlight in his first race with the team. Action Express and lead drivers Joao Barbosa and Darren Law are the defending winners of the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the team’s No. 9 Porsche/Riley. David Donohue and Darren Law, who will join Action Express with the team’s new No. 5 Porsche/Riley, won America’s premier sports car race in 2009 for Brumos Racing.
“I don’t really feel any pressure,” Sawyer said. “I know we have great people and great drivers. They know what they’re doing, and I want to make sure I don’t get in the way and disrupt them. I’m there to do anything I can to help them in the process. I’m excited to see the team go for its third in a row.
“The bigger picture, though, is to be a contender week in and week out,” Sawyer added. “When we leave Daytona we want to make sure we’re well prepared for Homestead and the other events coming up. Our main goal is to put a solid foundation on the ground.”
While Sawyer’s background is in stock cars, there is a road racing expert in his family. His wife, Patty Moise, was a front runner in the former IMSA Kelly American Challenge before turning her attention to the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
“Patty is very busy now with her thoroughbred horses, turning the chapter from horsepower on four wheels to four legs,” Sawyer said. “Hopefully, we can get her to a couple of our events.”