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Friday, March 23, 2012

Elliott Sadler’s move backward has him moving forward after history of disappointment

Not too long ago, Elliott Sadler’s career was in the dumps. He was bouncing between bad teams in Cup, and didn’t really have a strong outlook for the future, and there was an ugly contract dispute of the middle of all that.

Last season, he seemingly took a step back, going to the Nationwide series. That’s a step down, technically.

The good news, though, was that he was with a good team. The Keven Harvick Inc. team (which later folded into RCR) made a wise choice to take on a veteran like Elliott, who despite recent struggles is still a strong driver.

And this year, well, everything is roses. That “step back” has him in a position to win the Nationwide crown in 2012. And after Childress’ swift smackdown after Sadler flirted with a part-time Cup ride for a Toyota team, you can bet Elliott has learned he needs to focus on winning that title for Childress.

Sadler was ecstatic last week when won his second race of the season – this time at Bristol. And he has a big points lead; which is rare at this point in the season – and that’s because his two other finishes besides the wins are both third place. (If you are a math wiz, you’ll note that his average finish is 2nd. Not too shabby.)

I’m glad to see Sadler doing well, and his story is an example of how stepping back can get you on the path to redemption. Now, if he wins a Nationwide title, maybe Childress can move him up to Cup at some point and he can contend at the highest level once again – He’s had success in Cup before, and with the right equipment can do it again.

So next time you hear of someone seemingly making a backward move in their career, keep in mind that it might not be a bad thing after all.

Just ask Elliott Sadler.

Go Nationwide regulars

One of my biggest complaints in recent years has been that Cup drivers win so many races in Nationwide (in recent years, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards have been the biggest offenders.).

This year, in an amazing turn of events, for the first time since 1995, all four race winners were NOT Cup drivers. Sadler won twice; Buescher won in stunning fashion at Daytona and Stenhouse won. This streak is very likely to end at California (It’s been 10 years since a non-Cup driver won the race there), but I hope this keeps up. The fact that the Cup guys are not dominating as in years past – when it would be forever until a Nationwide regular won just ONE race, shows the regulars are starting to become more competitive, and that’s a good thing. The series long needed its own identity, and a points battle between Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse and Elliott Sadler would be a great way to return viewers to the series, which many people had sworn off in recent years due to the Cup domination.

If these drivers can start to win regularly and outduel the Cup guys, it will be a return to the series’ glory days; when young talent battled for the win each week and the title each year (My favorite battle was Dale Jr. vs Matt Kenseth in the late 1990s). I know some Cup guys will take the checkered flag in Nationwide races in 2012, but the fewer the better is my view.

In case you’re curious, the 1995 winners in the first four races were Chad Little (2); Kenny Wallace and Johnny Benson. And David Green and Larry Pearson, also series regulars, won the fifth and sixth races that year.

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