Sadler's slow start may have him looking elsewhere
Posted: Thursday April 27, 2006 1:14PM; Updated: Thursday April 27, 2006 6:14PM
If Elliott Sadler is telling secrets, we want to know: Are you looking around?
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images
Elliott Sadler has been in the Big One at Talladega, and he can tell you that it wrecks both your race and your race car. Horsepower-light (thanks to restrictor plates) Nextel Cup cars running in close quarters, side to side, front and rear, on those monstrous, 33-degree banked turns? Yep, that's a catastrophe waiting to happen.
Sadler won't say it -- who admits to wanting to run in that kind of mayhem? -- but he's itching to compete in Sunday's Aaron's 499. Or, at least, he should be.
In a mediocre season, one of Sadler's rare bright spots was his performance at Daytona in February. He drove the Robert Yates Ford to victory in one of the 150-mile qualifiers and was fourth in the 500.
Yes, the tall, easy-going Virginian was sixth in his home state at Martinsville, but he doesn't have another top 10 -- and in four of the eight races, he has finished 23rd or worse.
Plate races are anomalies on the Cup schedule, only four per year. It takes maximum investment in engine and aero to get the slightest edge; the pattern has been that once a team or a manufacturer gets there, it keeps an advantage for a few years. Sadler and the Yates' Ford are at the beginning of that curve.
Sadler started on the pole at Talladega last October and ran well. A Big One left him limping around at the back, many laps down.
He'd prefer to get the pole again, because it's the safest place to start.
"We've had a lot of good qualifying runs there," Sadler said. "We grabbed the pole the last race we were here. It just gives your team a big shot of momentum heading into the weekend. You want to try to start up front, try to stay out of the middle of that 43-car pack. I always say it's hard to ask 43 human beings to be perfect for 3˝ hours, especially when you are running that close.
"Just because you start up front doesn't mean you're safe. We proved that last October, but are your chances better? I definitely think so. We had amazing cars here last year, great horsepower from [engine builder] Doug Yates and cars that could pass and run up front."
Sadler's season and his luck can't get any worse than the past two weeks. His Ford went down for the count at Texas, 33rd, from an engine problem; then last Saturday in Phoenix he was caught up in a wreck and finished 37th. That dropped him to his lowest position in the points this season, 14th.