2004 saw Elliott Sadler in the midst of the first ever NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup. Since then it has been all downhill for the driver. Sadler, an Emporia, VA native and 10-year veteran on the circuit hit a rough patch in 2005.
The beginning of the 2006 season did not play out as Sadler would have hoped, leading him to join Gillette Evernham Motorsports halfway through the season in a car outside of the top-35. Sadler, known for his qualifying abilities, then almost took the pole in his first qualifying effort with the new team, at Michigan. A 10th place run that day put the team in the top-35, and they never looked back.
Surely, after the success the Dodge team shared in 2006, 2007 would be a breakthrough year. But faced with the new Car of Tomorrow and tough competition, Sadler finished 25th in points and it looked like a comeback would never happen.
2008 rolled around and Sadler, with his new sponsors Best Buy and Stanley Tools, took to Daytona with Chase hopes in mind. His season was set off on the right foot with a sixth place run at Daytona.
But his success was short-lived. Blown tires, blown engines, bad luck, and a lack of speed kept his team down in the points. With the introduction of brand new cars in the Gillette Evernham Motorsports stable a quater of the way through the year, speed certainly picked up.
The team started seeing results as they rolled into Charlotte, finishing eighth in the longest race of the year and then ninth at Michigan. With a season-best run of fifth at New Hampshire, this team really hit their stride and rolled into Indianapolis as a favorite to win the race.
Sadler led 5 laps in the caution-marred Indianapolis race and ran in the top-five all day. Sadler felt he had a chance to win the race at the end when he was running in second, faster than the leader with 12 laps to go when a competition yellow came out for teams to change tires.
Sadler's crew went to work, but it wasn't quick enough as Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, and Denny Hamlin all beat him off of pit road. The race resumed and Sadler could not do anything as Johnson and Edwards were the class of the field all day. Sadler made a run at third but ran out of laps, finishing fourth.
"You know, we're not kissing the bricks. Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson and those guys for that," Sadler said after the race. Sadler has been running in the top-10 week in and week out. It may only be a matter of time before he wins a race.