After a tumultuous start to the NEXTEL Chase for the Championship, the No. 38 Robert Yates Racing team of Elliott Sadler has found their groove. Sadler has been surprising all season, running with dogged consistence and finding victory lane ...
After a tumultuous start to the NEXTEL Chase for the Championship, the No. 38 Robert Yates Racing team of Elliott Sadler has found their groove. Sadler has been surprising all season, running with dogged consistence and finding victory lane twice.
After making the Chase, however, Sadler had a bumpy two weeks, finishing 20th at Dover, and 22nd at Talladega. The two poor showings dropped Sadler to eighth in series points. Last weekend at Kansas the 38 team seemed to once again gel, competing for the win, before finally finishing fourth.
Sadler was the fortunate benefactor of many of his chase competitors having lousy runs at Kansas Speedway. He was the highest finishing car among the chase field, which propelled him up four spots to fourth in series rankings.
Team 38 remains a distant 143 points out of first place, but they come to Charlotte with a new car and high hopes. In the initial practice session for Cup teams at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Sadler handed in the third quickest time with a lap of 185.970 mph.
All-in-all it's a career making year for the 29-year-old Virginia native. It is clear that Sadler's relationship with crew chief Todd Parrott and RYR General Manager Eddie D'Hondt have helped him straddle the line from fledgling driver to championship threat. Previous to this season, Sadler's best series finish was 20th in 2001.
Whatever magic materialized over the off-season, the payoff is obvious. Sadler is one of only four other drivers that have remained in the top ten all season, and in addition to his two wins, he enjoys 13 top-ten results.
"I think it all starts at the top," Sadler said. "We've got one of the best car owners, I think, in the business. He understands support. He understands about keeping up team morale where it needs to be. Through all of the hard times last year, he was always in a positive mind and was willing to make changes.
"He made a lot of changes last year during the season to get us where we need to be and I love racing the car for an owner like that."
Sadler runs well at Lowe's Motor Speedway, although an accident relegated him to a 43rd place finish in this event last year, he did earn a fifth place result at the spring event.
"We're not doing anything special," said Sadler of preparation for the race. "To us it is just another race weekend, and we are going to try and win. We got the car pretty good and we want to try and win this race Saturday night."
With Saturday night's running of the 500-miler in Charlotte, Sadler hopes that he can make up more ground on third place's Jeff Gordon, who Sadler trails by 64 points.
"We're going to try and win every race," commented Sadler. "Kurt Busch has been very consistent and he is going to have one slip to let some of the rest of us catch up. We think we have to beat the 24 car every week; he's the guy to beat.
"He understands the pressure and we think as a team if we can focus on outrunning the 24 car every week, we have a great chance at winning this championship."