The financial concerns that surrounded Richard Petty Motorsports in 2010 kept the organization in a state of flux, and Elliott Sadler was one of four RPM drivers in the eye of the storm.
But while teammates Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger and Paul Menard had what can only be described as streaky results in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, Sadler’s fortunes were much less varied. The No. 19 team struggled for much of the year and never broke into the top 20 in the points standings.
It was the culmination of a continued erosion for Sadler, who finished 27th in the final standings, the second straight year he’s fallen a notch.
In early October, Sadler said he’d not been approached by team officials to talk about his future with the team, and therefore began exploring other options. When the organization began an attempted restructuring, it was announced that only two teams would remain for 2011 – that of Allmendinger and Kahne’s No. 9 for newcomer Marcos Ambrose.
While hopeful of eventually continuing his Cup career, which includes three career wins in 429 starts, Sadler will focus on the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2011 as a driver for Kevin Harvick Inc.
Season Highlight: Even as the team was struggling to field four teams late in the year, Sadler was able to put his No. 19 Ford on the pole at Texas in November. It was his eighth career pole and came just weeks after starting on the outside of the front row at Auto Club Speedway. His best race result came at Michigan in August when he finished ninth for his lone top-10 of the season.
Low Point: A strong run at Daytona in July came crashing down when Sadler found himself caught up in a multicar accident just yards shy of the white flag, erasing a potential top-10 finish. That crash, unfortunately, wasn’t nearly as violent as the one he was involved in approximately one month later. During the August race at Pocono, Sadler’s car was turned and sent hard into the barrier lining the inside of the track. The impact was so hard, in fact, that it knocked the engine out of his Ford. “It knocked the breath out of me pretty good. … It’s definitely the hardest hit I’ve ever had in a race car,” Sadler said at the time.
Defining Moment: It likely came the day before Sadler’s horrifying crash at Pocono, when the 35-year-old won the truck series race at the track in his fifth start for team owner Kevin Harvick. By season’s end, Sadler had been named to drive for KHI’s No. 33 Nationwide Series team in 2011, with additional starts in the team’s No. 2 truck in the Camping World Truck Series.
Key Stat: One. That’s the number of top-10 finishes for Sadler in 2010, the fewest for the popular driver since the 2000 season.
Outlook: Sadler’s well liked in the garage and popular with fans. But his career hasn’t moved forward since his 2004, when he won two races for Robert Yates Racing and finished ninth in points. Stepping into the Nationwide Series, in solid equipment, could help rejuvenate his racing career.
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