It took longer than he thought but Elliott Sadler is finally the point leader in the Nationwide Series. It’s a “finally” moment for many who have been waiting for Sadler to show up on the scene after a slow start led many to start looking elsewhere for contenders.
[media-credit name=”Barry Albert” align=”alignright” width=”246″][/media-credit]Here’s Sadler though, momentarily back on top in a sport he’s experienced all the highs and lows in. Following a 12-year career in the Sprint Cup Series racing for teams like the Wood Brothers, whom he won his first race with, to Richard Petty Motorsports Sadler, knew he needed to make a change. No longer having fun nor competitive, he ran select races for Kevin Harvick Inc. last season where he became rejuvenated. It led to a full-time ride and with NASCAR changing how points were going to be awarded, Sadler jumped to the top of the list as potential breakouts in 2011.
But following a wreck in the season opening DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona, Sadler was already in a deep hole. The OneMain Financial team went to work and starting stringing together top 10 finishes. By Darlington last weekend they had climbed to second behind Justin Allgaier, five points out of the lead.
At Dover, Sadler and his team would have to again scratch and claw their way back to the top. After starting eighth their day was almost done when they were handed a speeding penalty. At the same time the race was red flagged and had it been called, Sadler would have finished outside the top 15.
Fortunately, the sky cleared and with less than 55 laps to go Sadler got to work moving through the field, determined not to cost his team another good finish. He was sitting ninth coming off turn four to the white flag when all hell broke loose in front of him.
“I’m not sure what happened, I looked up and the 60 and the 20 looked liked they got together,” Sadler said afterwards. “Not sure how that all happened, we were just able to make it through the wreck by staying to the high side of it. It’s a self cleaning race track so we just stayed up high and made it though.”
What happened was scary. Joey Logano got loose and hit the wall and when he came back across the racetrack collected Clint Bowyer who went up onto his side and hit the inside wall. In the process others started to pile on behind.
Carl Edwards went to victory lane and with mayhem all around him Sadler would be able to skirt by for a sixth place finish.
“I made a mistake on pit road and got a speeding penalty right before the rain so I’m glad we were able to get back to racing because that helped us out a lot to race our way back up to sixth,” said Sadler.
With Allgaier having his own troubles and wrecking early in the race, Sadler’s finish made him the point leader by 10 markers over Reed Sorenson. It is the first time that he has led all season.
“I think I led in 1998 too,” Sadler joked. “First time in a long time. That’s our goal, to lead the points and be competitive and consistent so we feel like we’re in a pretty good spot right now. Daytona we started ourselves out in a hole and we’ve worked ourselves back up to where we want to be. Really good consistent runs.”
In Sadler’s words he has a really strong race team and one that he has confidence in. Now with the point lead in hand he’s eager to see what they can do with as they “keep after it” each week. In doing so, those who were looking for a championship favorite finally have. He was just late to the party.