Sawyer takes fifth again in NBS By Brett Borden

LOS ANGELES (Jan. 5, 2000) Elton Sawyer will walk across the stage for the fourth time in the last five years as a member of the select top-10 in the series. He finished fifth in 1999.

It's nice to see veterans get rewarded after years of dedication to a series. Elton Sawyer, he of the 335 NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division starts, was rewarded with his second career win in 1999. The driver of the No. 98 Lysol Ford ended a five-year drought by winning the NASCAR Busch Series 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway.

That was the highlight of a campaign that culminated in Sawyer's second consecutive fifth-place finish in the final standings. To be sure, the Lysol team has its sights set squarely on a championship this year.

Sawyer almost got his second career victory in race No. 5 of the 1999 season. He finished runner-up to Matt Kenseth in the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 at Darlington Raceway. It was his third finish of seventh or better in four races, and served notice that he would be a serious contender for a top spot in the points, despite running Ford Thunderbirds, which were considered an "underdog" make in 1999.

The elusive second victory came in race No. 11. Ironically, it was a rare Sawyer mistake that led to the victory. Midway through the race, Sawyer missed a shift on a restart, falling way behind as a result. It was that deficit that prompted his decision to stay on the track after a late caution, rather than pit as most of the field chose to do. That decision paved the way to Victory Lane.

"(Crew Chief) Ricky Viers did a great job," Sawyer said. "He said 'Look, don't worry about it. Keep the fenders on it. It'll come back to us."

It did, and the victory signified that Sawyer had come back as a threat to win week in and week out. Further proof came in the form of a third-place finish later in the year at Memphis Motorsports Park.

It was a remarkably consistent season for Sawyer. He made the field in all 32 events, finished worse than 34th just once (41st at Talladega) and picked up 13 top-10 finishes in one 23-race stretch. After his third-place finish in race No. 8 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Sawyer found himself perched atop the standings.

If Sawyer is to finish that way in 2000, he'll need to pick up on his qualifying. His average start in 1999 was 20th, and his average finish was 14th. But despite those relatively poor starts, the 1999 season would have to qualify as a success for Sawyer & Co. at Akins Motorsports.