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Sadler Steaks Toward Title – And Uncertain Future

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 8 2012

Elliott Sadler and team owner Richard Childress will go separate ways after the season. But they may do so as Nationwide champions. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

RICHMOND, Va. – NASCAR Nationwide Series point leader Elliott Sadler credits Richard Childress with resurrecting his career, so to know he won’t be with the team owner next year is a bitter pill to swallow.

“The stars don’t always line up,” Sadler said in explaining his situation Friday at Richmond International Raceway. “I’m just not going to be able to race with those guys next year. It’s tough.”

Childress said Friday the situation was due to the team’s sponsor deciding to leave RCR.

Sadler joined RCR when the organization acquired Kevin Harvick Inc.’s Nationwide and truck teams at the end of 2011. He won half of the first four Nationwide races this year and possessed the standings’ lead through the first seven. Sadler dropped to second at Darlington when he was wrecked in the final laps, but returned to the lead at Dover with a seventh-place finish.

In Friday’s Virginia 529 College Savings 250, Sadler was battling Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for second when he caught Stenhouse’s Ford in the left rear, lost control of his Chevrolet and backed his car into the wall. Sadler rebounded from the accident to finish 12th. That left him with a mere one-point lead over Stenhouse Jr. with eight races remaining.

“Richard has promised me any and everything we need to get this deal [championship] done,” the 37-year-old Sadler said. “We’re in great position to win the driver’s championship and the team owner championship. I think that’s pretty good bragging rights for both of us if we’re able to pull it off.”

Sadler admits the last four or five years have been tough. When he drove the No. 19, initially for Evernham

Elliott Sadler had a good run going at Richmond Friday. Until he ran into trouble. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

Motorsports and later Richard Petty Motorsports, he said he lost his “feel” for the race car.

“When I drove Nationwide years ago, the (No.) 21 [Wood Brothers] and the (No.) 38 car [Robert Yates Racing] I could tell you what the car was doing,” Sadler said. “Then I got in a period with the (No.) 19 car when we were racing old cars, show cars and all the crap we went through with that and I couldn’t tell you at all what the car was doing. I had no feeling at all.”

That feeling returned when he joined KHI and hooked up with Ernie Cope, whom he had known at RYR. Now, he considers his knowledge of the race car the best it’s ever been.

“Luke (Lambert, crew chief) has done a great job of explaining to me what it does when we make changes and what I should be feeling,” Sadler explained. “I’ve really learned the ins and outs of this race car very well. I just have a lot better feel all the way across the board confidence-wise.”

Sadler also believes his two years with KHI and RCR returned his value as a driver. He said when he left RPM at the end of 2010 he felt he was “at the bottom of the barrel.” Now, he believes his stock and people’s opinion of him as a race car driver “are way different” than it was two or three years ago; it’s back where it was when he drove for RYR, was in the Chase and won two races.

“I definitely have a lot more interest and a lot more phone calls now than I did two years ago before I started driving for Kevin and Delana (Harvick), so that makes me feel good,” the Emporia, Va., driver commented.

Sadler doesn’t have anything for 2013, but he is talking with various Sprint Cup and Nationwide teams.

Entering the homestretch in the 33-race Nationwide schedule, the veteran driver doesn’t believe his situation will make it difficult to focus on the championship battle.

“I saw Tony Stewart and Darian Grubb win a championship knowing they were going to be somewhere different the following year,” Sadler said. “I’ve seen Matt Kenseth compete at a very high level all summer long and I think he is a legitimate threat to win the championship on the Cup side. We’re going to do the same thing.”

Sadler, who noted when he was growing up he was a Dale Earnhardt fan, said he “would love nothing more than to bring a championship” to Childress.

“He’s a good man, been great to me; he’s helped resurrect my career and it would be an honor to put something on the wall before we leave for the man that owned the car of your hero growing up,” Sadler continued. “There wouldn’t be a better feeling in the world if I can look Richard Childress in the eyes at Homestead and hand him that trophy. It would be the coolest feeling in the world.”

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 8 2012
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