BUSCH: Richmond Elliott Sadler Race Story

Pit Crew Impressive; Day Ends Early For Sadler Harrisburg, North Carolina - Elliott Sadler, interim driver of the ...

Pit Crew Impressive; Day Ends Early For Sadler

Harrisburg, North Carolina - Elliott Sadler, interim driver of the #47 MONRO Muffler Brake & Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the NASCAR Busch Series, was involved in a late race accident relegating him to a 35th place finish in the rain-delayed Hardee's 250 at Richmond International Raceway on Friday, May 14, 1999.

Sadler, who is filling for the injured Andy Santerre, and the Innovative Motorsports crew were excited about heading to Richmond. After all, the MONRO #47 sat on the Bud Pole, with the 1998 Raybestos "Rookie of the Year", Andy Santerre, the last time it was at Richmond and the IMI crew was hoping for a repeat. They went back with the same car and the same basic set-up hoping to be one of the fastest cars. They were, but not quite fast enough to score a repeat on the Bud Pole. They qualified 14th, only .10 seconds off their pole time from the previous year.

"Competition is so close," the 24-year old Sadler commented. "One error by the driver or one wrong call by the crew could mean the difference between making a race or loading up and going home." Sadler finishes, "Andy (Santerre) was on the pole last fall and his pole time wouldn't have been a top-10 today."

Sadler and the MONRO Racing crew have shown flashes of brilliance this season and have had either a mechanical failure or have gotten caught up in an accident to end their great runs. Richmond was no different.

The #47 started on the outside of row seven when the three-hour rain delay was finally over. Sadler was a little tight at the beginning of the race but managed to race in the top-15 the first 100 laps of the race. On lap 62, the MONRO Chevrolet came down pit road in 14th position. After a lightening fast pit stop complete with a four-tire stop, fuel and a chassis adjustment, Sadler went back out 11th, gaining three positions.

Sadler raced into the top-10 on lap 74 and raced as high as 8th at one point in the 250-lap event. The car was still a little too tight so when a caution came out on lap 146, the MONRO Racing crew instructed Sadler to pit.

Again the pit crew had an awesome stop, gaining four positions and beating both Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. out of the pits. "I am so proud of these guys," Mike Greci, the IMI crew chief, admitted. "They were really struggling with pit stops last season and when Andy ran up front, they had trouble keeping up with the other front-runners. That was just inexperience on their part, they have a full season under their belts and they have been practicing three times a week to improve. They were unbelievable this past weekend and they nailed both pit stops." Greci adds, "In the press material for the team,. The heading on the crew page is "Pit with the Pros," I believe the crew has lived up to and will continue to live up to that title now."=20

When the green flag was again thrown on lap 146, lapped cars were on the inside. The MONRO #47 was in 9th position (four cars did not make pit stops so were at the front of the field on older tires) and was fast but caught in the middle of the front pack. Going into turn three, the #56 of Jeff Krogh, a lapped car, and the #22 of Steve Grissom got together and the #22 hit the wall and bounced back down in front of the field. Sadler had no where to go and hit the #22 with his right side. The impact was so great, the MONRO Monte Carlo was on two wheels at one point. The accident did enough damage to end the great run the MIM crew had going at lap 149. Also involved in the accident was the 1998 Busch Series champion, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and points leader, Elton Sawyer.

"There was nothing I could have done," Sadler said after the incident. "I thought the #22 might stay up against the wall and that we could get through. There were cars underneath me so I had no where to go when he (Grissom) came down the track. I took him right in his drivers door and my car almost flipped over."

The accident forced the #47 behind the wall and out of the race just after half way. But not until after the crew and Sadler showed they could again race competitively with the leaders.

The MONRO Racing team heads to Nazareth Speedway on Sunday, May 23, 1999 for the First Union 200.

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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Elton Sawyer , Steve Grissom , Elliott Sadler