Elliott Sadler and the No. 38 Robert Yates Racing Ford team enjoyed a spectacular season grabbing two wins to hoist them into the Chase for the Championship. The 38 team entered the final ten races looking like the underdog for a possible first time championship, but then something went wrong.
After an eighth place finish at the first Chase event, luck turned sour for the 29-year-old Bristol, Virginia native. At Dover, Sadler received a bad set of tires on the team's final pit stop, sending Sadler down pit road for service on lap 375. A penalty for speeding on that stop relegated Team 38 to a 20th place finish.
Talladega has never been kind to Sadler and this year proved no different. Sadler was running sixth coming out of the tri-oval on the final lap of the race when he was shoved sideways flipping completely over before landing upright just past the start/finish line.
"Every time I walk into Talladega Speedway," answered Sadler when asked what his most painful moment in racing is. "I can't seem to finish there; I flip just about every time I go. So that is the most painful thing for me."
Talladega this year seemed to mark the point of the season where the No. 38 team became unglued. Despite a brief rebound at Kansas and Charlotte, Sadler finished the season with five finishes of 23rd or worse.
"We sat down and came up with some different scenarios," said Sadler. "Things that Todd (Parrott, crew chief) and I can do better. We always try to do things a certain way and then take time to step back and have some time to reflect and say we got to do things better.
"It all comes down to communication. Todd and I had some breakdowns in communication the last few races and we've looked each other in the eye and we know how to fix it. When we get to Daytona we have to pick up right where we were in the middle of the season when we got hot. We can't forget to how we got to that point and that's what we need to do to start the season next year."
With his superspeedway car nearly ready, Sadler hopes that he can find the momentum that propelled his team to wins at Texas and California and once again become a top ten competitor for the 2005 Chase for the Championship.
"I think a lot of what happened at the end of the season was me pressing when I didn't need to press," said Sadler. "And some of it was Todd being too conservative when he didn't need to be. At that point and time you really have to be aggressive and really make some great pit strategy calls to get position and that's what we learned.
"We made some bad calls, and then I compounded them by putting myself in bad situations I knew I couldn't get out of. We all made some mistakes those last few races, but we can look back and dissect them and learn from them and hopefully don't do them again."