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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2008 Driver Review: Elliott Sadler

2008 Ride: No. 19 Gillett-Evernham Motorsports Dodge
2008 Primary Sponsors: Best Buy, Stanley, McDonald’s
2008 Owner: Ray Evernham
2008 Crew Chief: Rodney Childers

Stats: 36 races, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 8 top 10s, 0 poles, 24th in points
Best Finish: Fourth (Indianapolis – August)

High Point: Elliott Sadler started the season with a sixth-place run at Daytona, but, unfortunately, the highlights were few and far between after that. However, his best run of the 2008 was a fourth-place finish at the Brickyard, running with and finishing just behind championship contenders Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin. Clearly a top-five car throughout, Sadler picked a great time to contend for the win during one of the most important races of the 2008 season. However, those proved to be two of a select few bright spots in Sadler’s nightmare year.

Low Point: For Sadler, who has not visited victory lane since 2004, most of the 2008 season was a low point. And while it seemed like luck was not on the side of any of the Gillett Evernham Motorsports drivers, Sadler seemed to be hit the hardest. Many races, Sadler just wasn’t even competitive, and when he was, an unfortunate situation – like involvement in an on-track incident or a mechanical failure – would ruin what looked to be a decent day.

Summary: All-in-all, 2008 was a continuation of the bad fortune and bad finishes Sadler has experienced since moving to GEM midway through the 2006 season. While he and his race team showed promise several times throughout the year, it seemed like something was always shutting them down. 12 times, Sadler qualified in the top 10, including a second at Phoenix. However, it seemed he and the team were never able to continue that momentum through the actual race itself. Seeing as all three of the GEM teams struggled throughout the season, one has to wonder if the changes that occurred in ownership during the middle of 2007 – a shift that coincided with Ray Evernham’s slow but steady departure from the organization – affected everyone’s performance.

Off-Track News: It hasn’t all been bad news for the Emporia, Va. native. In July 2008, Sadler announced he was engaged to his girlfriend, Amanda Prince. He also continued his very close involvement in the Hermie and Elliott Sadler Foundation, helping kids affected by autism – an initiative that had him pairing him up with Emmy Award-winning FOX NASCAR director Artie Kempner on several occasions.

Team Ranking: Second out of three drivers/teams at GEM.

2009 Outlook: With the recent news that Sadler has just been released from his GEM ride in favor of AJ Allmendinger, his current outlook for 2009 looks pretty bleak. With not many “quality” rides still available in any of the three NASCAR series, Sadler may very well be sitting on the sidelines in 2009. Sadler has filed notice in a North Carolina court stating that he plans to file a claim for breach of contract against GEM, so depending on how quickly George Gillett and team want to move past this, the lawsuit could be Sadler’s “job” for the season. (Along with Gillett and GEM, the filed notice also lists Allmendinger and Ray Evernham Enterprises as defendants.) It is possible that Sadler’s only involvement in NASCAR in 2009 will be as a panel member on SPEED Channel’s “Trackside.” So, for now, this is still a developing story…

Editor’s Note: As of Friday morning, published reports put Sadler back behind the wheel of the No. 19 for the 2009 Sprint Cup season. Stay tuned!

2006 Frontstretch Grade: D
2007 Grade: B-
2008 Grade: D

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