Despite Controversy, Elliott Sadler Hopeful for 2009

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Despite Controversy, Elliott Sadler Hopeful for 2009

He signed a contract extension in May, some good news as NASCAR owners were (and continue to be) struggling to keep teams afloat.

But keeping his job meant filing a lawsuit against Gillett Evernham Motorsports early this month, after they planned on replacing him with former Red Bull Racing driver A.J. Allmendinger.

After a merger with GEM and Petty Enterprises, the team announced Elliot Sadler would continue driving duties for the No. 19 Best Buy/Stanley Dodge.

"They never said, 'Hey, we're replacing you, we're moving on,'" Sadler told the media Wednesday. "It was always just, 'Maybe this could be a possibility.' You know what, I think at the end of the day, they were just looking to see what their options might be to make sure the 19 car is going to be competitive and going to run good.

"It was pretty much like, 'We might do this, this might be an option, we're going to give you permission to go talk to other teams in case this is an option,'" Sadler continued. "So they were very up front about it to me. There was like no smoke and mirrors, anything like that, as far as that was concerned. A lot of stuff kind of got blown out of proportion. But as far as their communication with me about it, it was always up front."

The Virginian native, who is getting married this month, says the controversy has made his family stronger, and felt like "our back(s) (were) against the wall."

Sadler also says it's "all in the past," and that his team is focusing on the season opener at Daytona.

Sadler hasn't won a race in nearly five years. His new team director, Kevin Buskirk (formerly of DEI), hopes to change that this year.

"I really begged and pushed to have Kevin Buskirk on my team," Sadler said. "Bringing him on board was just a smart decision. And I tell you, I feel like a new man since this happened. We want to go out and shock the world: make people pay attention to the No. 19. And [Buskirk] will work day and night to make that happen."

As of Tuesday, he has yet to speak to Allmendinger, but says he holds no hard feelings toward him. No word on if Allmendinger, 27, will drive the currently unsponsored No. 10 that he finished the 2008 season in.

The three GEM drivers (Sadler, Kasey Kahne and new teammate Reed Sorenson) will be testing at Rockingham Speedway next week.

Thanks to NASCAR.com, Jayski and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for the information and quotes used in this article. 

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