Sadler jubilant after first top-10 By Matthew Leach FORT WORTH, Texas (March 28, 1999) Elliott Sadler notched his first top-10 in NASCAR's top series Sunday. Terry Labonte won his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series race in nearly 10 months...
Sadler jubilant after first top-10 By Matthew Leach
FORT WORTH, Texas (March 28, 1999) Elliott Sadler notched his first top-10 in NASCAR's top series Sunday. Terry Labonte won his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series race in nearly 10 months Sunday in front of a raucous home-state crowd of more than 200,000. He was, however, only the second-happiest man in the Texas Motor Speedway garage after the PRIMESTAR 500. "Texas Terry" had nothing on Elliott Sadler, who was absolutely euphoric after notching the first top-10 of his NASCAR Winston Cup Series career.
Sadler and the Wood Brothers team battled the 1.5-mile quadoval all day long, dropping far back in the field before the right adjustments and some savvy driving got the No. 21 Ford in the hunt once again. The rookie driver was making his third straight top-15 start, but he had yet to finish better than 31st this season. You could hardly tell from his expression that the young Virginia native hadn't actually won the race.
"I don't know what to say," Sadler said with a wide grin. "It feels like a win to me, just a big load off my shoulders. I know it's a big load off these guys' shoulders. This is a great race team. Mike Beam is unreal. Eddie and Len (Wood) have bent over backwards for me. These guys have done everything they ever told me they were gonna do and then some. I was down on myself a couple weeks ago and still am. But this is a great turnaround for us. I've always run well on this track. I'm glad to be able to turn it around here, just happy for everybody."
It should only get better for Sadler. After a weekend off this coming week, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway, where Sadler has won in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division and where he posted his previous career-best finish. The following week, it's off to Martinsville Speedway, the closest thing in the series to a home track for Sadler.
That ought to help his fragile confidence, which has been at a low in recent weeks. But even going to two of his favorite tracks probably won't benefit Sadler as much as one single clean top-10 run will.
"Oh yeah, I've been down," Sadler said. "It just seems like no matter what we did we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Something was always biting us in the butt. We just didn't get it handed to us. We worked on this car and worked on this car, pitted under green-flag racing, made the right calls, did everything we had to do to get ourselves a top-10 finish and man I couldn't be more happy."
He's still got to turn that confidence into performance, but he's learning what it takes to do that. Sadler is not yet 24 years old, and he has a grand total of 84 starts in NASCAR's two top series. He learns every time he gets behind the wheel. And now, he's learned just how good it feels when you put your knowledge and skill to good use at the top level of competition.
What may have been most impressive about the No. 21 team's run Sunday was how patient Sadler remained. He didn't try to put the car where it wouldn't go. He kept his head after a mistake on pit road. He did the little things that separate talented drivers from good drivers.
"We just hung in there on the lead lap and that's what it takes," Sadler said. "Ride around half the day, save your stuff, and then you really can go at it at the end and we were able to do that today."
Sadler is on the way to big-time success in NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing. And imagine what the party will be like when he wins one of these things.
Source: NASCAR Online