Kicking Off The Playoffs With Elliott Sadler

Elliott Sadler seems prime for a championship run.

Elliott Sadler seems prime for a championship run.

Heading into Saturday night’s race at Kentucky Speedway, Elliott Sadler enters the playoffs as the regular season championship. Of course, he wants more.

With Sadler and his rivals chasing the Xfinity title at Homestead-Miami, he looks forward to a strong start at Kentucky Speedway.

The JR Motorsports driver enters the playoffs without a victory. However, when it comes to Kentucky, he not only knows how to win, but he knows how to finish.

All told, Sadler has run all but one lap in his 12 Xfinity starts at the 1.5-mile oval just 40 miles south of Cincinnati, OH. The question for Sadler and his team is if there’s a target on the back of that No. 1 One Main Financial Chevrolet.

Certainly, Sadler has the confidence entering this weekend.

“Being the regular season champion and defending Kentucky race winner only gives us confidence in our ability to perform,” Sadler pointed out.  He also said that his No. 1 team has done a great job all season, as they are really getting the cars right and the strategy each race.

The performance certainly has shown, even without a visit to Victory Lane. Most notably, the consistency has led Sadler to a solid average finish of 9.5.

As the playoffs begin, Elliott Sadler looks for his first title, but he has some hungry young guns nipping at his heels.

One of those determined young racers is Sadler’s teammate William Byron. As previously announced in the summer, Byron will climb up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018. Furthermore, Byron enters Kentucky in the second spot on the strength of three wins this season.

So, now it’s the age old question – does one strive for wins or consistency?

In this case, can Elliott Sadler win the 2017 NASCAR Xfinity title without winning a race in the playoffs?

Undoubtedly, Sadler enjoys racing at Kentucky.

Undoubtedly, Sadler enjoys racing at Kentucky.

“We’ve been so close in picking up wins this season, but the consistency is what got us the points lead and helped us keep it,” Sadler added. “I do believe we need a win to go after this title.”

If you are a superstitious numbers fanatic, which Sadler really isn’t, the fact remains that Sadler has at least one victory in his last six seasons in the Xfinity Series in each of the odd number years.

In addition, Sadler enters the final stretch of races hoping to break a streak that dates back 20 years. The last time Elliott Sadler won in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in an odd number year was 1997, a season in which the Virginian scored three short track victories.

“We’re hungry for our first win of the 2017 season and know we can get it done at Kentucky,” Sadler said. “It’s a great track and a track our team has had success at.”

In the 2016 300, Sadler wasn’t the strongest car, but with good strategy, he was able to get in to the right spot on a late restart.

Certainly, the box score showed that Sadler only led 11 laps en route to his third win. If he repeats last year’s feat, the No. 1 team will be en route the Round of 8.

Certainly, Sadler takes pride as this year's regular season Xfinity champion.

Certainly, Sadler takes pride as this year’s regular season Xfinity champion.

“Getting that win and securing a spot in the next round is big,” Sadler explained. “As the playoffs progress, a win in the last two rounds is obviously going to be a huge advantage to help become the champion. The ultimate goal is to be in the final four at Homestead.”

Before the No. 1 team can reach for that first win, it will be important to qualify up front. Consider that the last eight winners at Kentucky have started inside the top seven. Interestingly, only two drivers have won after starting outside of the top-10.

For Sadler, he takes to pressure as well as his idol Cale Yarborough.

The two are a lot alike, in their persona and the way the race, but how did Elliott Sadler grow up a fan of Yarborough?

“He was the grand marshal at my hometrack when I was seven and my dad, who is a Chevrolet dealer, got us to meet and greet,” Sadler recalled.

When a fan gets starstruck by the drivers, they are as well grounded as the next person. Sadler added, “Meeting him and getting his autograph is a memory I will never forget. He’s been my idol ever since.”

His idol may be cheering him on after Sadler honored Yarborough in Darlington with a throwback paint scheme.

As well verse as Sadler is with driving, he’s quite the adept cook.  In this case, he believes he’s the stronger cook between himself and wife Amanda.

“I definitely think I’m the better cook,” Sadler said. “We have three different grills at my house and we love to entertain.”

So what is being served up in the Sadler household when the driver turns cook?

Can Sadler finally hoist this trophy in November?

Can Sadler finally hoist this trophy in November?

“Lately, I have been making a lot of brisket,” Sadler observed. “However, the biggest hit is always my mom’s homemade brown rice recipe.”

Perhaps a good home cooked meal is in order for Sadler.

In this case, a victory in Saturday night’s 300 might be in the offing.

Stephen Conley

If it races, I'll write about it, talk about it or shoot it with a camera.

I began pursuing a career in motorsports journalism immediately after attending college at Kent State University. I have hosted multiple Motorsports talk shows, worked in Country Music radio, and now i spend every day on the air in the morning with 1300 and 100.9 WMVO and in the afternoons watching the roadways around Central Ohio for 93.7 WQIO.

The excitement and the fans make everything I put out there worth while, it's been an exciting 15 years having covered everything from the Daytona 500 to the Rolex 24 and you can find me at pretty much any event run at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

What I like to bring is a look behind the scenes, a look at what and who makes the sport grow. From the guy that welds pieces back at the shop to the host in the tv booth.

Everyone has a story and I like to tell it. My main focus here at TPF is looking at the men and women behind the microphone and cameras.

My life long goal is to become a member of MRN or PRN Radio and bring the races to you. I hope that what I share now is enjoyable and gives you a unique look in to the world of motorsports.

See you at a track soon

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