Following a crazy third place finish in Daytona last weekend and after ending a 14-year drought from victory lane in the Nationwide Series though, it’s clear he’s hitting all the right buttons thus far in 2012. He went to victory lane in Phoenix on Saturday afternoon after leading the final 26 laps and holding Brad Keselowski.
“It’s a very emotional win, it’s been a while and we all know how long it’s been since I’ve been to victory lane,” said Sadler.
“Richard [Childress, owner] is such a great owner and when he talks to me he talks to me like he’s got confidence in me and he’s got confidence in our race team and he believes in what we’re doing and he’s giving us the right tools. And as a driver and as a person because I’ve been on the other side of the fence, man that’s all you can ask for.
“Luke [Lambert, crew chief] made some great calls today and it’s funny because I told him yesterday after practice, ‘Man, we’ve got a good car but I don’t know this is not my best track.’ He said ‘It’ll be your best track after tomorrow don’t you worry about it.’ It’s just cool to have that kind of confidence around my team.”
Sadler lined up third on the race’s final restart after having only taken two tires during pit stops. The dominant car, teammate Kevin Harvick, was buried in traffic after he took four. Quickly driving to a comfortable lead Sadler watched the laps clicked down, Keselowski unable to mount a comeback.
The win was the sixth in Sadler’s 166 race NNS career but the first since 1998 when he won at Rockingham. It was his first NASCAR win since 2010 when he won in at Pocono driving a truck for Kevin Harvick Inc.
It was last year that Sadler drove for KHI and came up short in the championship. Something he’s continually hard on himself for, the expectations had been set pretty high. A wreck at Phoenix in November eliminated him from contention but Sadler said on Saturday that was the furthest thing on his mind.
“Honestly that feels three or four years ago because last year was last year,” Sadler said.
“Yes, it probably affected the way the championship could have worked but we’re on a whole new deal, whole new season, whole new outlook with a different team. So honestly what happened here last year just felt like a long time ago, it did not weigh on my mind one second the whole weekend I was here.
“I felt like coming out of Daytona leading the points with a third place finish we just a lot of momentum on our side. It’s a lot different feeling than I had here last year coming out of Daytona 38th.”
Sadler is working hard on not dwelling on what happened last year or what could have been. He wants to learn from what he did wrong and apply it to his 2012 campaign as he chases the championship.
So far so good, he holds on to the point lead, now by 10 over another teammate, Austin Dillon. A week after leaving Daytona ecstatic just to have survived the crapshoot that is a restrictor plate race, the Virginia native heads into the season’s third week a winner and sitting in a position he never had last year.
Childress couldn’t be more pleased with Sadler and the rest of his RCR teams, saying he knew that he and Lambert were going to be good combination. Also saying that he “just knows” they’re going to be contenders for the championship.
“I’ve got all the confidence in our whole Nationwide organization and I knew Elliott could get the job done, I’ve seen him too close too many times last year,” said Childress.
“And have OneMain back with us as a sponsor and get that win early. And Luke, the talent, man he has the talent, he could go to the Cup side but for his career he and I talked about it, to stick in here for a year or so and whenever he’s ready he’ll be a championship Cup crew chief as well. And I’m sure him and our whole bunch will be chasing the championship pretty hard.
“It’s just the second race a lot can happen but I couldn’t be prouder.”
The praise he has for Sadler is given right back by his driver. Sadler feels that as an athlete you want to have someone there to have your back and with constant belief in you.
“Yes sir, 100 percent it makes a big difference, “said Sadler of having a team owner who believes in him.
“And anybody in here who has played any kind of sport in their life, whether it’s middle school basketball or baseball, if you have a team or a coach or somebody that believes in you, it gives you a ton of different outlook or confidence as a player or as an athlete. In my case as a driver.
“I’ve been on the other side of the fence when you feel like you walk into the place and the spotlights on you and they don’t really want you there. And you walk into this place [RCR] and everyone runs up to you and they want to talk about what you just did and where you came from and we’re going to kick their butts this weekend.
“I mean, the team meeting we had in the truck, I was like ‘man these guys believe, this is awesome. These guys believe, hell we’re going to win the race today.’ It’s just neat the attitude that they have and Richard’s had that the whole entire time. Even when I didn’t drive for Richard.”
More importantly for Sadler, it’s neat how far this team has come in just two races.