Posted: Thursday April 27, 2006 1:14PM; Updated: Thursday April 27, 2006 6:14PM
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"This team needs a boost right now, some good luck to come our way for a change," Sadler said. "My guys haven't let down all year. They are working as hard as they ever have, but we've had a couple of bad finishes here lately, things that weren't in our control, and now we're heading to a place where a lot of times you don't have a lot of control.
"We just want to qualify well and see the checkered flag. If we can do that, it should be a pretty good day."
Sadler arrived at Yates, then a premier team, in 2003 with aspirations of many good days. He'd shown promise in Cup with the Wood Brothers, which plucked him out of the Busch Series after a whirlwind 76-race career that saw Sadler win five races. Sadler's first Cup victory with the Wood Brothers in his third full season of 2001 caught the eye of Yates, who forced Ricky Rudd out at the end of 2002 to make room for Sadler.
Progress with Yates was sure-footed. Sadler justified Yates' faith with two wins in 2004 and made the Chase, ending ninth in the championship.
Sadler appeared headed for a breakthrough campaign last year. He was third in points as the Cup series headed to Daytona in early July. But the rest of summer and all of the fall was a long, slow goodbye from the Chase. Sadler was 13th at the end of the 36 races.
Yates brought in Tommy Baldwin Jr. as crew chief to rectify the situation. It hasn't, at least not yet.
When Sadler arrived at Yates, he said it was a dream job, perhaps a lifetime job. And now? He's not so sure. Sources say Sadler is talking to other team owners looking for a deal. He'll be 31 on Sunday, and in a tight market for experienced, winning Cup drivers with plenty of years left, somebody likely will be interested.
Sadler has a year remaining on his contract, and he may just be testing the waters in case things don't improve. Or he may be trying to create a situation like Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray did last year by signing a year in advance and then letting the car owners work out a deal for an early release.
Does Sadler really want out at Yates? We know this for certain: Sadler wants to run better, and if he doesn't, a change of teams and equipment is the best option. But a couple of wins and a cluster of top fives could cause him to consider staying at Yates.
There may be no better place for him to turn it around than at Talladega, if for no other reason than it's next on the schedule. He'll just need to avoid the Big One on Sunday.