After more than five years, Hermie Sadler will start a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event. And like the last time he raced against the sport’s best in 2012, it comes at his home track of Martinsville Speedway.
“I’ve been coming up here since I was five years old,” Emporia, Virginia native Sadler told Frontstretch. “My uncle Bud used to race late model sportsman double-header weekends with the modifieds. So, we’ve been making family trips up to this track since I was a little kid.”
Entering Sunday’s First Data 500 as the second oldest driver on the starting grid, the 48-year-old, who’ll race Premium Motorsports’ No. 7 Chevrolet, has used his past in the sport to not only grow his knowledge for pit reporting with FOX Sports in the Camping World Truck Series, but to also grow his relationship with Virginia Lottery. That partnership will have a special Sunday morning promotion that made it possible for Sadler to race.
“I’ve had a 20-year relationship with them,” Sadler explained. “Also, a personal service contract, so we’ve run some XFINITY Series races off-and-on through the years. This particular year, they’ve had a promotion where they’re giving away seven Stingray Corvettes. The last one is given away on Sunday, so they wanted me to be in the race and on the track.”
Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia Lottery has supported Sadler in the XFINITY Series, sponsoring him at Richmond and Tennessee’s Bristol Motor Speedway from 2014 to 2016. But this year, the special promotion opened the door for Sadler to take that big step up in 2017.
“I wasn’t actively pursuing [a return to Cup] but it worked out and came together,” he said. “We’re going to do the [Corvette] reveal right before the green flag, so that was the point of having a car on the track and me being involved in it. For me, it’s an opportunity to go back out there and compete. Something I haven’t done a whole lot of in the last five or six years.”
With a personal service contract that spans on the track and off, there’s various opportunities for Sadler to engage with Virginia Lottery.
“Some years, it includes some racing, some years not,” he said. “Even when I don’t race, I’m constantly doing appearances and promotions for them around the NASCAR track. I will continue to do that and when something comes up, as long as I feel like I can do it, those plans are always talked about one year at a time.”
Despite having 64 prior Cup starts, joining his 265 in XFINITY including two wins, a 2017 Cup car varies wildly from that of 2012. Additionally, there will be a championship on the line for eight drivers on Sunday, something Sadler has taken notice of entering the weekend.
“If you take three weeks off from racing, you lose a lot,” he said. “There’s a lot of drivers now who race limited schedules and I haven’t driven a Cup race in five years. I certainly have a disadvantage as far as that goes. I want to get the the best result in our situation. It’s my goal to do everything I can do for my team and sponsor without having any impact on what’s going on with the guys racing for a championship.”
No matter the outcome or result, Sadler will have a voice in the weeks and years to come, as he continues to work with FOX on pit road. Here, Sadler can further detail the inner-workings of what’s happening on the track. And days like Sunday can further bridge the gap from the viewer to the racetrack.
“Things change so quickly,” he said. “When you’re an analyst, you always want to explain to the viewers what is going on and why. Tell them something they cannot actually see on TV. Whether someone isn’t running well, an issue on pit road.
“I haven’t driven one of these cars with the new aero package, the splitter and all these things, so it will be new for me. A steep learning curve. I’m very realistic about the challenge that’s in front of me but I know it will be very educational.”