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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Finally! Allmendinger’s talent is recognized as GEM gives him ride; Sadler gets the boot

Way to go, Dinger.

After a rough start to his Cup career at the Red Bull team, including being replaced for a full month in 2008 by Mike Skinner after a particularly rough patch where he couldn‘t qualify, A.J. Allmendinger started to show the Cup world that he has the goods to compete in this series toward the end of the year, with strong runs first in the #84 Red Bull car and later in the #10 Gillett Evernham car.

This late-season resurgence apparently impressed his bosses at GEM enough to give him a ride. That’s not shocking, as anyone with common sense could see that he has the potential to do great things in Cup.

The shocking news is that he will drive the #19 car, and Elliot Sadler is being given the boot. One on hand, I’m not surprised. I recognize that Sadler was far from impressive during his time at GEM. He hasn’t won a race in the Cup series since 2004, and honestly I often forget he is even in the race. But at the same time, he was a pretty likable and marketable guy (apparently some sponsors aren’t very happy with this move) and has won races in the past, so it was pretty bold to dismiss him.

The reason this move was made comes down to two thing: An awesome finish to the year by Dinger and, even more importantly, the economy. Something not being said, but which can be implied by the fact that Sadler is not being moved to another car within the organization, is the #10 car will likely not run next year and Kahne and Dinger will be the cars from the GEM stable. If they had sponsors for three cars, Dinger would have taken over the #10 car full-time in 2009 and Sadler would have kept his ride. It’s pretty clear the team had to choose, and they went with the guy who’s young and on a hot streak over the guy who’s older and appears to getting farther and farther from Victory Lane each year.

Word is the merger with the Petty team is still on, but Reed Sorenson will get the #43 ride. No plans have been announced for the #10 car, and that's usually not a good sign. In this game of musical chairs, Sadler's mediocrity has left him without a seat when the music stopped.

Another note: It’s been reported that Ray Evernham has cleared out everything he had at the GEM offices, meaning that it’s more accurate to call it Gillett Motorsports from this point on. No surprise there, as Evernham indicated this was going to happen, but now it appears to be official.

In short, you can add the Gillett team to the list of Cup teams that are undergoing drastic overhauls for 2009 due to the inability to attract sponsors (DEI, Ganassi, Pettys, Wood Bros., etc..).

Sadler still has some ability and should land a ride somewhere, but I don’t see him ever being a major competitor again unless he can find his way to a top-level team in the future … which isn’t likely.

And last but certainly not least, I’d like to offer a big congratulations to Dinger. He got this ride the old-fashioned way: He earned it by showing he’s a tremendous talent. Now he must hope that the team can give him the equipment to compete at least occasionally with the Roush, Hendrick, Gibbs and RCR juggernauts that have been running the sport for the past several years. If he can pull out a win for the team in 2009, or even contend for one (something Sadler rarely did), this move will be validated.

If Dinger is as good as he has indicated he might be, Red Bull is going to regret letting go of him this past season in favor of Scott Speed.


Blogger Julie said...

Fox Sports is reporting that Reed Sorenson will go in the 43, and that the merger is "imminent."

December 28, 2008 at 10:38 AM 
Anonymous Ed said...

Matt I gotta tell ya that a Sadlerless GEM ain't a bad thing. I haven't been impressed by Sadler in a long time. He left Yates Racing thinking he had a better idea at GEM. Admittedly Yates was on the downside of things and at the time and Evernham wasn't on that down slope yet. But Sadler was rudderless at GEM. He just couldn't make it happen.

You know in Cup--and it's been that way for a long long time--racers can adapt to anything. If you look at the cream of the crop, they run up front in the Twisted Sister Cup car, in the CoT, or in anything. If you put a 800 hp engine in a Soapbox Derby, the top 10-15 guys--for the most part--will win or finish up front most of the time.

Sadler has always been a wannabe. He has won, but many could have won in Yates cars those years. It took a Dale Jarrett to win a championship in Yates cars, or Ernie Irvin to dominate or Davey Allison as well. Sadler is likable to an extent. This year I thought he was classless after blaming David Gilliland for Sadler's own mistake at Dover. Sadler took the whole track up in that corner and came down on Gilliland and then had the class-less act to blame David. At that time it just wasn't so. Sadler made the mistake, caused a big wreck and then couldn't own up to it. To me in this business it takes more than sponsor likability to be a winner. And so many drivers just get recycled and recycled. That's why it's good to see Almandinger get a chance to prove himself. Way to go Almindinger!

Lookit, in these cars a change is sometimes very very necessary to get back on track. Look at Carl Edwards when he took over the 99 car; went to the front as a rookie and won. Jeff Burton is one of a rare breed who is a racer and redeemed himself at RCR, but he is the exception rather than the rule. Sadler is like Michael Waltrip, nice in commercials, but a racer? Naa, just a driver. That's what separates the men from the boys Matt, a few are racers. most are drivers.

December 28, 2008 at 11:11 AM 
Blogger Matt Myftiu said...

You know Julie, I have to be honest and say I completely forget that Sorenson was even in the picture and had agreed to come to the Gillett team.

Looks like the team just got tired of Sadler underperforming and didn't want to find a spot for him.

December 28, 2008 at 11:42 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a bunch of crap to sign him to an extension mid-season and then let him go when nothing was left for him to drive. Hes a great guy and I dont think Evernham would have done that

December 29, 2008 at 5:35 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadler should have been in the Nationwide or Truck series a long time ago. He wastes a good race car.

December 29, 2008 at 7:55 AM 
Anonymous Amy said...

Merry Christmas to ME! I haven't been excited by much in NASCAR lately but when that scrolled across ESPN I pumped a fist. It's a very short list of athletes (or people in general) I use the word "Hate" with, but Elliot Sadler is at the top of it by a MILE. Plus, Allmendinger gets a ride, so double WIN.

December 29, 2008 at 11:10 AM 

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