Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Elliott Sadler

Elliott William Barnes Sadler was born on April 30th of 1975 in Emporia, Virginia as the youngest of three sons to Herman and Bell Sadler. Elliott’s older brother Hermie was a race car driver and now is an announcer on the Speed Channel. Bud Elliott and Herman Sadler, his father and uncle were very successful short track racers before Elliott was born in the short-tracks of Virginia.

Sadler began racing go-karts in 1982 at the age of seven.

In 1984 Elliott won the Virginia State Karting Championship.

He was runner-up in 1989 for the World Karting Association national title.

In 1992 Sadler won the North Carolina Gold Cup. Between 1984 and 1992 in Karts Elliott’s accomplishments included over 200 wins.

When he turned 18 in 1993, he moved to the Winston Racing (Dodge Weekly) Series on a full-time basis; he achieved his first victory in that series in only his rookie year.

In 1995 Sadler was crowned the track champion at the South Boston Speedway, where he achieved 13 wins that year, including a 6-race winning streak. After being the champion at the SBS he made his Busch (Nationwide) Series debut there in the #46 Dewalt Tools Chevy; he started 15nd and finished 8th. He also made another start at Richmond International Raceway and finished 24th.

He began 1996 driving a part-time schedule for his family-owned team the Sadler Brothers, before switching over to the #29 World Championship of Wrestling Chevy owned by Diamond Ridge Motorsports. He had three top-tens in the Diamond Ridge ride, with his best finish coming at the Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex, where he finished fifth. After making thirteen starts that year, he finished 35th in points.

Sadler and Diamond Ridge began 1997 without a sponsor but after earning two poles at Daytona and Darlington Phillips 66 came on board as a sponsor. Sadler won his first career NASCAR Busch (Nationwide) series race at Nazareth Speedway in Pennsylvania in only his 13th start. He followed that up with back-to-back wins at Myrtle Beach Speedway and Gateway International Raceway. He won an additional four pole positions and finished a career-high fifth in points. He also attempted the UAW-GM Quality 500 in the Cup Series for Team SABCO, but failed to qualify.

In 1998, Sadler's team switched to the #66 due to the sponsor Phillips 66, and won early in the season at Bristol. After another win at North Carolina Speedway, Sadler announced he would leave Diamond Ridge at the end of the season; that would be Elliott’s last full season in the Busch (Nationwide) series. He made his Winston (Sprint) Cup debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the #92 for Diamond Ridge, starting 31st, but finishing 42nd after an engine failure. He ran another Cup race later at Bristol, finishing 24th.

Sadler moved up to the Winston (Sprint) Cup Series full-time in 1999, driving the #21 CITGO Ford for the Wood Brothers. His best finish that year was a tenth at Texas Motor Speedway; he finished 24th in points and finished runner-up to Tony Stewart for the Rookie of the Year honors. He also returned to the Busch (Nationwide) Series on a part-time basis, filling in for the injured Andy Santerre for Innovative Motorsports; his best finish was a fifth at California Speedway. He also drove a handful of races for Lyndon Amick.

Sadler’s year in the Winston (Sprint) Cup series in 2000 was sort of rocky. He only had one top ten which was at Bristol and he failed to qualify at Talladega Superspeedway. He also had a wild flip at Michigan Speedway after cutting a tire in practice.

In 2001, Motorcraft became Sadler's new sponsor in his Wood Brothers #21. At Bristol in March he won his very first Cup race which just happened to be the Wood Brothers last win to date. He had another top-ten and finished 20th in points.

In 2002 Elliott had seven top-tens and finished 23rd in points.

Sadler left for Robert Yates Racing to drive the #38 M&M's Ford. In his first season of competition with Yates, Sadler won the pole at Darlington Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway, and finished 22nd in points. Ironically Ricky Rudd took Sadler’s old #21 and finished 23rd, one position behind Sadler, in the points.

In 2003, Sadler had a nasty crash at Talladega after near-contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and touched the right-front fender of Kurt Busch. Sadler blew into the air, flipped twice, landed on his roof, spun towards the banking, and flipped 5 times and thankfully Sadler was uninjured.

Sadler started 2004 with a top-10 finish in the Daytona 500, and six races later won at Texas Motor Speedway for his 2nd career win. He was only one of four drivers to stay in the top-10 in points all season. He won for the third time in his career at the California Speedway, winning the battle over Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin. He had another flip at Talladega after he spun out and blew over onto his roof. Sadler was uninjured, and he was even able to drive his car back to the garage. He made the Chase, and finished a career high ninth in the championship standings.

Sadler failed to win again in 2005, but won four poles. At the cut-off race at Richmond Elliott was 11th and didn’t get to make the chase. He also drove sixteen races for RYR's Busch (Nationwide) car, the #90 CitiFinancial Ford Taurus and in those he had three top-five finishes.

In 2006, Sadler had a pole at Talladega and was nineteenth in points. He made seven Busch (Nationwide) starts; his best finish was second at Richmond. After a lack of results, Sadler left RYR midway through 2006 for Ray Evernham’s team.

In the 2007 Daytona 500, Sadler along with a couple of other drivers was caught in a cheating scandal. Despite being docked 25 points, he still went on to finish a season best 6th after missing a big race at the end. Sadler then had many ups and downs throughout the season. In 2007, Sadler led 62 laps, posted two top-10 finishes and finished 25th in points. Sadler went longer than any other driver before failing to finish a race in 2007. That year he was featured on the cover of the EA Sports game NASCAR 07.

For the 2008 season, Sadler received new sponsorship from Best Buy for 15 races, Stanley Tools for 13 races, McDonald's for 6 races, and Siemens for 2 races. He struggled in 2008, garnering only 2 top fives, 8 top tens, and 16 top twenties. He had 4 DNFs and 12 finishes of 30th or worse. Sadler led 21 laps in 2008, his fewest since the 2000 season. He ended the year 24th in the Sprint Cup Series standings. On December 27, 2008, it was reported that A.J. Allmendinger would replace Sadler in the #19 Best Buy Dodge for Gillett-Evernham Motorsports in 2009. Elliott threatened a lawsuit for breach of contract; however the lawsuit was dropped after the GEM Petty Enterprises merger and he was promised his ride back.

During Elliott’s first race with the newly merged Richard Petty Motorsports at the Daytona 500 of 2009, Elliott led 24 laps and was leading about five seconds before it started raining, but Matt Kenseth passed him right before the yellow which caused him to finish 5th. Mid-way through the 2009 season Sadler said this about his future. "We are approaching the remainder of 2009 and beginning of 2010 thinking we can improve our program enough to where we can contend for victory lane," "Everyone is very positive on this team. With the personnel and resources, I think all of us expect to do that. That's our goal."

Sadler is heavily involved in the Autism Speaks charity because his niece Halie has Autism. In 2008, Best Buy (his sponsor) sponsored the Best Buy 400 Benefiting Student Clubs of Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. His car had a custom paint scheme specifically for that race. His hood and helmet were signed and auctioned off following the race, with the proceeds going to Autism Speaks.

On February 16th, 2010, Elliott's wife Amanda birthed Wyatt Herman Fritts Sadler at 9:47am in Richmond, VA.

When he isn't racing, Sadler enjoys hunting, golfing, playing video games, hanging out with friends and following a variety of sports. He is a spokesman for NASCAR SpeedParks and appears in national TV commercials for Coca-Cola. He also does periodic appearances on PRN’s weekly race show.