Nationwide points leader Elliott Sadler got there with consistency

awincze@herald-leader.comJune 28, 2012 

NASCAR Michigan Nationwide Auto Racing

Elliott Sadler is one of the most consistent drivers in the Nationwide Series, with 10 top-10 finishes.

CARLOS OSORIO — ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Friday at Ky. Speedway

    7 a.m.: Parking lots open

    8 a.m.: Gate 15 ticket windows open

    9 a.m.: Gate 15 opens

    9 a.m.: NASCAR Nationwide Series Feed The Children 300 final practice

    11:30 a.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 practice

    12:30 p.m.:NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 practice concludes

    1 p.m.: All ticket windows open

    1:30 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 final practice

    2 p.m.: All gates, Fan Zone and hospitality areas open

    3 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 final practice concludes

    3:30 p.m.: NASCAR Nationwide Series Feed The Children 300 qualifying

    5 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 qualifying

    7 p.m.: NASCAR Nationwide Series Feed The Children 300 pre-race ceremonies

    7:30 p.m.: NASCAR Nationwide Series Feed The Children 300

  • Nationwide Series update

    2012 winners

    Feb. 25: DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona Beach, Fla. (James Buescher)

    March 3: Bashas' Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix, Ariz. (Elliott Sadler)

    March 10: Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas, Nev. (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)

    March 17: Ford EcoBoost 300 at Bristol, Tenn. (Elliott Sadler)

    March 24: Royal Purple 300 at Fontana, Calif. (Joey Logano)

    April 13: O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Fort Worth, Texas (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)

    April 27: Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond, Va. (Kurt Busch)

    May 5: Aaron's 312 at Talladega, Ala. (Joey Logano)

    May 11: VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington, S.C. (Joey Logano)

    May 20: Pioneer Hi-Bred 250 at Newton, Iowa (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)

    May 26: History 300 at Charlotte, N.C. (Brad Keselowski)

    June 2: 5-hour ENERGY 200 at Dover, Del. (Joey Logano)

    June 16: Alliance Truck Parts 250 at Brooklyn, Mich. (Joey Logano)

    June 23: Sargento 200 at Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Nelson Piquet Jr.)

    Remaining schedule

    Friday: Feed The Children 300, Sparta, Ky.

    July 6: Subway Jalapeno 250 Powered By Coca-Cola, Daytona Beach, Fla.

    July 14: F.W. Webb 200, Loudon, N.H.

    July 22: STP 300, Joliet, Ill.

    July 28: Indy 250, Indianapolis

    Aug. 4: U.S. Cellular 250, Newton, Iowa

    Aug. 11: Zippo 200 at The Glen, Watkins Glen, N.Y.

    Aug. 18: NAPA Auto Parts 200, Montreal

    Aug. 24: Food City 250, Bristol, Tenn.

    Sept. 1: Atlanta 300, Hampton, Ga.

    Sept. 7: Virginia 529 College Savings 250, Richmond, Va.

    Sept. 15: Dollar General 300 Powered By Coca-Cola, Joliet, Ill.

    Sept. 22: Kentucky 300, Sparta, Ky.

    Sept. 29: OneMain Financial 200, Dover, Del.

    Oct. 12: Dollar General 300, Concord, N.C.

    Oct. 20: Kansas Lottery 300, Kansas City, Kan.

    Nov. 3: O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, Fort Worth, Texas

    Nov. 10: Great Clips 200, Avondale, Ariz.

    Nov. 17: Ford EcoBoost 300, Homestead, Fla.

    Points leaders

    1. Elliott Sadler 517

    2. Austin Dillon 506

    3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 494

    4. Sam Hornish Jr. 483

    5. Cole Whitt 442

    6. Justin Allgaier 441

    7. Michael Annett 414

    8. Mike Bliss 364

    9. Brian Scott 339

    10. Danica Patrick 337

    11. Tayler Malsam 319

    12. Joe Nemechek 316

    13. Mike Wallace 307

    14. Jason Bowles 289

    15. Jeremy Clements 278

    16. Erik Darnell 248

    17. T.J. Bell 204

    18. Johanna Long 190

    19. Trevor Bayne 180

    20. Timmy Hill 176

    21. Eric McClure 165

    22. Kenny Wallace 150

    23. Brad Sweet 145

    24. Ryan Truex 136

    25. Morgan Shepherd 132

    26. Blake Koch 129

    27. Danny Efland 122

    28. Jamie Dick 122

    29. Jeff Green 120

    30. Casey Roderick 119

    31. Joey Gase 118

    32. Benny Gordon 116

    33. Josh Richards 102

    Money leaders

    1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. $652,092

    2. Elliott Sadler $535,212

    3. Austin Dillon $413,948

    4. Cole Whitt $381,197

    5. Joey Logano $378,450

    6. Sam Hornish Jr. $359,412

    7. James Buescher $356,148

    8. Brian Scott $355,957

    9. Justin Allgaier $355,092

    10. Brad Keselowski $337,975

    11. Michael Annett $335,192

    12. Danica Patrick $332,466

    13. Tayler Malsam $327,977

    14. Mike Wallace $318,537

    15. Jason Bowles $317,772

    16. Jeremy Clements $310,789

    17. Joe Nemechek $302,639

    18. Mike Bliss $298,712

    19. T.J. Bell $249,270

    20. Erik Darnell $237,737

    21. Jeff Green $233,639

    22. Timmy Hill $227,587

    23. Kurt Busch $222,480

    24. Eric McClure $219,972

    25. Blake Koch $210,131

    26. Johanna Long $208,626

    27. Denny Hamlin $190,985

    28. Kasey Kahne $188,970

    29. Kenny Wallace $187,441

    30. Josh Wise $185,874

SPARTA — He doesn't have the wins Joey Logano has racked up in NASCAR's Nationwide Series this year.

And in the wake of this week's announcement that his rival Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is taking over Matt Kenseth's Sprint Cup Series ride in 2013, Elliott Sadler has answered more questions about his main foe's potential than his own progress.

While his quiet consistency has cost Sadler some media attention, it has put the former Cup veteran in position to secure both a long-awaited series championship and a potential return to first-tier competition.

Whether or not he generates the level of chatter of some of his competitors, Sadler has a pretty substantial bragging right of his own as the points leader in the Nationwide Series.

Heading into Friday night's race at Kentucky Speedway, Sadler — who ran 12 full seasons in the Cup Series until 2010 — has 10 top-10 finishes in this year's 14 races and holds an 11-point advantage over Austin Dillon with Stenhouse 23 points back in third.

It was Stenhouse who denied Sadler the Nationwide crown a year ago, overtaking the Virginia native midway through the season and holding him off to win the title by 45 points. Though he has ground to make up on Sadler again, Stenhouse's three Nationwide wins this year are second only to the five victories of Cup regular Logano. Logano will not add to that total Friday night because the three-time Nationwide winner at Kentucky will sit out the race.

Sadler had nothing but high praise when asked Thursday how he thinks Stenhouse will handle his impending promotion. However, Sadler made sure to point out his own Richard Childress-owned team lacks for nothing in terms of its upside.

"You know it's funny, I get a lot of questions about Ricky after racing with him last year and this year and I tell everybody he's the real deal," Sadler said. "He doesn't have a lot of weaknesses. I honestly think he could take that race team he's got now and challenge to get into the (Cup) Chase next year — just like I think I could take my team right now and challenge in Cup.

"I think we both have that much confidence in ourselves and in our race teams."

What Sadler has this year that was missing in 2011 is the ability to draw upon recent success.

Sadler's run at the championship last season included zero trips to Victory Lane. After going 14 years between triumphs in the Nationwide Series, Sadler won two of the first four races this year, taking the checkered flag at Phoenix and Bristol in March, and he's added in four other top-five finishes.

"Last year and this year have been a total different experience than what I was used to the prior four years (in Cup) before that," Sadler said. "It's the same mentality I had when I drove the 38 car for Robert Yates Racing back in the day when you showed up and you felt like you had a chance to have a successful weekend, to sit on the pole, to lead laps, to be a part of the championship conversation. We're back in the middle of that again."

In his first Nationwide race at the Sparta tri-oval last year, Sadler's vast experience testing at the track helped him win the pole and finish fifth.

While some drivers lament the notorious bumps on the Kentucky oval, Sadler says he enjoys that part of the racetrack and the speed that can result from hitting those challenging spots just right.

"The bumps are probably the most challenging part of this racetrack," Sadler said of Kentucky Speedway. "Especially in a Nationwide car, you dance a lot and you just have to make sure you get the right shop package on there.

"I really feel good we're going to be good here at the end."

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com.

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