Is Elliott Sadler Ready to Get Back Into NASCAR Sprint Cup Series?

By Joseph Wolkin
Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Elliott Sadler has two kids and a wife. His life is drastically different from his days driving the M&M’s car for Robert Yates Racing. During that time, Sadler became known to the NASCAR world for being able to pilot a car on the high-banked tracks.

However, over the years, Sadler ended up in some bad situations. He’s been in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for the past few seasons, and hasn’t been able to win a championship due to some untimely accidents late over the past few seasons. But this year has been a whole different story for the Emporia, Va. native.

Sadler, 38, has been racing in NASCAR since he was 20 years old as one of the many drivers creating a new generation for the sport. Now, Sadler is driving for the prestigious team of Joe Gibbs Racing. Gibbs is currently fighting for a drivers championship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, plus an owners title in the Nationwide Series. Yet, Sadler isn’t in the mix for the championship for the first time since he took the step back since 2011 with Kevin Harvick Incorporated.

With Brian Vickers‘ blood clot reforming in his right leg, Michael Waltrip Racing was looking for a driver to replace Vickers for the rest of the season following Talladega. For those who remember, Sadler was originally slated to drive the No. 55 Toyota for the team before Richard Childress Racing made it clear that they didn’t want Sadler to lose concentration on the championship battle. It probably had a lot to do with the difference in manufacturers, but Vickers came out on top and it surely paid off for him.

MWR was looking for a driver with experience, not a young guy looking to gain experience. They wanted someone to give them a new opinion about their cars, plus a guy that was a Toyota driver. There was only two real options: Sadler or Kenny Wallace (who practiced/qualified the car at New Hampshire). Evidently, the team chose Sadler as he looks to rejuvenate what may be a slow end to his career.

Sadler hasn’t driven a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series vehicle in back-to-back races since his last full-time season in 2010. Obviously, this will be a lot better of an opportunity than what he once had at Richard Petty Motorsports. He was given an opportunity to drive a Cup Series car at Kansas earlier in the year, but performed poorly, eventually spinning out due to an ill-handling race car which his inexperienced crew chief couldn’t adjust.

The opportunity may be the break that Sadler’s been looking for. He’ll have Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead to prove his value to other teams as he still isn’t locked up for a job in 2014. Sadler has eight top 10s in 72 starts throughout those four tracks, including the memorable win at Texas back in 2004.

If he does well, expect Sadler to be announced as the part-time driver of the third MWR car for 2014. It would be a great opportunity for both sides. MWR would be able to have the R&D team which they claim they want with an experienced driver. Sadler would be able to showcase his talent to other organizations, MWR, sponsors and his peers.

Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.

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