Nationwide Series driver Elliott Sadler is looking for a Joliet sweep
BY TINA AKOURIS Sun-Times Media September 13, 2012 8:08PM
NRA American Warrior 300 - Practice
Updated: October 15, 2012 10:03AM
Elliott Sadler may be leaving Richard Childress Racing at season’s end, but Sadler wants nothing more than to give his owner a NASCAR Nationwide Series championship as a parting gift.
Sadler will need to pad his NNS points lead when he races his No. 2
OneMain Financial Chevrolet in Saturday’s Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet.
If Sadler wins, he will have swept both NNS races at Joliet this year after battling a severe stomach virus to win the STP 300 in July.
“We are bringing the same car back that we won with in July at the track,” Sadler said. “I know that (our) team is hungry to get back to victory lane, and we are going to do everything we can to get there.”
Sadler announced earlier this month that he’s leaving RCR but did not give a reason for the move. Sadler, who runs a full-time NNS schedule, is reported to be looking for a team that will enable him to run a full NNS slate and a part-time one in the Sprint Cup series.
Despite four victories, Sadler is leading the standings by only a point over defending NNS champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse, though, would like to cement his NNS career with another championship, since he is bolting for Sprint Cup in 2013 and will drive for Roush-Fenway Racing.
Sadler’s main competition isn’t just going to be Stenhouse, who led 135 laps during the July race yet lost the race on a restart with five laps remaining. Sadler also has to watch out for his own teammate, Austin Dillon.
Dillon is third in the standings, 30 points behind Sadler, and is a candidate for the Nationwide Rookie of the Year award. Dillon, Richard Childress’ grandson, is leading the rookie standings ahead of Cole Whitt.
Dillon has become NASCAR’s newest star with 12 top-five finishes and 19 in the top 10. That has fueled speculation as to when he will jump over to the Sprint Cup series. Dillon has maintained he isn’t in a hurry to leave just yet, and wants to get more victories than just his win at Kentucky.
Dillon has proved he can master Chicagoland. He started the STP 300 from the second position, ran up front for most of the race and ended up sixth.
This time around, Dillon has a new No. 3 Chevrolet that will be driven for the first time.
“I think we’re sitting in a great spot right now, so while there is pressure we have a lot to look forward to,” Dillon said.
NOTE: Tony Stewart pulled off perhaps the most difficult feat in auto racing when he drove in both the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 — on the same day.
Stewart, the defending Sprint Cup Champion, actually did “the double” twice, in 1999 and 2001. So if Danica Patrick ever asks Stewart for advice on doing both, he’s ready to help.
And despite Patrick’s lackluster Nationwide series season, where her average finish is 21st, Stewart is supportive of Patrick doing “the double.”
“She has not asked me, but I told her if she wants to do it I’m behind her 100 percent,” Stewart said at a personal appearance Thursday in Arlington Heights.
Patrick will race in Saturday’s Dollar General 300 Nationwide series race at Chicagoland Motor Speedway for JR Motorsports. But she will also drive in Sunday’s GEICO 400 Cup race, the first race in NASCAR’s 10-race playoff, for Stewart’s Cup team.
Patrick said a few times this season that she wants to do “the double” in 2013, but only if she thinks she has a shot at winning at Indy and if “the situation is right.” Next year, Patrick will run a full-time Cup schedule for Stewart-Haas racing.