Elliott Sadler Returns to Ford

by Monte Dutton

Elliott Sadler is trying to recover from a long slump.

In 2004, he finished ninth in the Sprint (then Nextel) Cup point standings. Sadler hasn’t made the Chase since, spiraling to 13th in 2005, 22nd in ‘06, 25th in ‘07, 24th in ‘08 and 26th last year.

This year Sadler, 34, returns by Monte Dutton to Ford, and though it’s part of an apparent merger with Richard Petty Motorsports, he also will return to Yates Racing. Two of his three career victories were with Yates, and all three were in Fords.

“We’re building new cars, trying to get everything as prepared as we can, so when we leave to go down for the 500, we have our Vegas and Atlanta and California [next three races] cars and all the stuff done,” said Sadler. “It’s been great so far. I’m very much looking forward to getting back in a Ford.

“I feel like I had a lot of success when I drove for Mr. Yates early in his engine program. I have a lot of respect for Doug Yates, what they’re doing. It’ll be neat to get back in a Ford again…. I’m very happy about the things that we’ve learned from the Ford camp and kind of put in the things that we were already doing. We’re already a little bit more optimistic, it seems like, week by week, before we get to Daytona.”

While appearing in Nashville, Tenn. at the Sprint Sound and Speed festival, Sadler paid tribute to the winner of the past four Sprint Cup championships, Jimmie Johnson.

“I have a lot of respect for him and his race team,” said Sadler, “but I don’t see them just laying down and giving up the crown to anyone. You’re going to have to go outrun them and do that week in and week out.

“I’ve heard Mark Martin say many times, even being their teammate, he didn’t realize how good Jimmie and Chad (Knaus, the crew chief) were until he got on that side of the shop and got to see what they do week in and week out.

“I mean, I don’t know about handicapping the sport. I’m not into that. But I’m saying right now, I would think, my opinion, he’s going to be the car you have to beat when it comes down to Homestead [final race] again.”

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week ( features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at (c) 2010 King Features Syndicate

Elliott Sadler returns to Richard Yates Racing, where he’ll drive a Ford, the car brand in which he won his three career Cup victories. (John Clark/NASCAR This Week photo)