Elliott Sadler Ready For New Role As Cup Sub
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Elliott Sadler steps into the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota this weekend at Martinsville Speedway for the first time since a medical issue sidelined the team’s regular driver, Brian Vickers, earlier this month and the Virginia native said Friday Vickers was handling the situation better
than he would.
“His attitude through this has absolutely been amazing and I told him ‘Man, I think you’re a bigger man than I am the way you’re handling this and as professional as you’re being,’ ” Sadler said during preparations for Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at the paperclip-shaped half-mile track.
Vickers was diagnosed with a small blood clot in his right leg’s calf a few days after the Oct. 12 event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He was placed on blood-thinning medication, which prevents him from driving the rest of the year. Waltrip drove the No. 55 car the following week at Talladega to a 32nd-place finish. However, Sadler will finish the season in the car that Vickers drove to victory at New Hampshire in July.
In the Nationwide Series, Vickers was eighth in the standings when he was sidelined following Charlotte where he finished 31st. Denny Hamlin will drive the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the Texas Nationwide race. Drew Herring will take over for the final two events at Phoenix and Homestead.
This is the second time blood clots have been a problem for Vickers. In 2010, he missed the last six months of the season with blood clots in his left leg and lungs. Later, a clot was discovered in a finger of his left hand.
That resulted in extensive tests that determined he had a hole between his heart’s right and left atrium, as well as May-Thurner Syndrome, a rare condition that puts a patient at risk for more blood clots and possible stroke. He underwent surgery to repair the hole on July 12, 2010. Vickers was 26 at the time.
Vickers, now 30, has a press conference scheduled for Sunday morning at Martinsville Speedway.
“He’s going to be back 100 percent ready to go by the time testing and all of that comes around in January and February, but his friendship and his mental outlook on this whole deal has been exceptional,” Sadler said. “He’s worked his butt off to get back to where he’s at right now. He’s done a heck of a job in this 55 car and he’ll be back strong in February. I don’t know how many people in our sport can really handle it as professionally as he has.”
Due to a two-week break in the Nationwide Series schedule, Sadler was able to test with the MWR team at Texas.
“It’s hard to put in words how much it helped me to go to Texas and test with this team instead of being thrown right into the fire today for the first practice not really knowing Billy Scott [race engineer] and not really knowing a lot of the guys on the team,” Sadler said.
He said he had worked with crew chief Scott Miller at Diamond Ridge Motorsports, but Miller wasn’t in his current capacity at that time. Sadler also will test with the team next week at Homestead.
“A lot of track time in the Cup car here in a 10-day period, I think, is definitely good for me,” said Sadler, who last raced a Cup car in April at Kansas Speedway where he finished 40th.
Since Sadler isn’t going for a championship he notes the team will be able to try different setups and pit strategy. However, to just be competitive each week isn’t his sole objective.
“I want to come out here and try to qualify good each week and run good each week and put ourselves in position to be there at the end of the race,” Sadler said. “I’m a competitor no matter what I play and no matter what I race. I don’t know what you guys think is realistic or not, but we’re here to win a damn race.”
– Deb Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgOne Comment