LONG POND – You’d be hard pressed to find a more popular winner than Elliott Sadler.
After years and years of struggles since what everyone thought was a breakout 2004 season in the Cup Series, Sadler returned to Victory Lane by winning the inaugural Camping World Truck Series Pocono Mountain 125 at Pocono Raceway on Saturday.
The victory was Sadler’s first since he won in the Cup Series at California in 2004 driving for Robert Yates Racing. Those days have to feel like ages ago as Sadler has switched teams and seen his results plummet, but that all changed Saturday when he dominated the 50-lap event at Pocono and made everyone take notice that he’s not about to go away quietly.
With no Cup ride for 2011, Sadler knew what a victory at Pocono could do to change the mind of those who thought he was washed up. He cited his close friendship with Jamie McMurray, the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 winner this year who at this time last season had no Cup ride for2010, as an inspiration and the reason why he should be hopeful for his future. Then he went and showed where it matters most, the track, that he has a lot of racing left in him.
I’ve interviewed Sadler on several occasions and you’d be hard pressed to find a nicer guy in NASCAR. He’s no robot. When you ask him something he looks at you, answers your question to the best of his ability and almost gives off a little smile like, “How cool is it that I’m a racecar driver and you’re a media member and this is what we do as our job?” He genuinely enjoys his career and it shows in his passion and desire to be good.
But even the most optimistic of people could have gotten bogged down with negative thoughts after experiences like Sadler went through the past six years. No victories, awful finishes in the point standings and fighting just to keep his ride at Richard Petty Motorsports for this season have been why Sadler has been noticed. That could be about to change and it would be hard not to root for him.
In a day and age where athletes seem to put themselves on a pedestal, Elliot Sadler is one of the people. You don’t get the sense that he thinks he’s better than anyone else and if he ever did his struggles surely brought him back to Earth. And now, perhaps like his good friend, it is Sadler’s time to show exactly what he can do in the right situation. He’ll have plenty of support.