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Elliot Sadler embraces his new role as a Nationwide Series driver

Elliott Sadler stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Drive4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.
Elliott Sadler stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Drive4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

By Lee Montgomery
Special to the Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

The main sponsor of Elliott Sadler's Nationwide Series team is rebranding itself this year, changing its name from CitiFinancial to One Main Financial.

Sadler hopes to do exactly the same thing with his name.

Sadler, 35, a regular in the Cup series the past 12 years, has slipped down the scale of importance in many minds over recent years, as he went from a winning Sprint Cup competitor to just another driver.

Sadler won two Cup races and finished ninth in the points standings in 2004 but since then posted five top-five finishes. The 2010 season was one of the worst of his career-one top-10 finish and only 12 finishes on the lead lap.

But last year, Sadler won a Camping World Truck Series race for Kevin Harvick Inc. and won a pole and finished third in the Nationwide race at Bristol in August, also for KHI.

"We sat down, and we went, ‘Hmm. We think we have something here. We can make this happen,' " Sadler said of his conversations with KHI co-owners Kevin and DeLana Harvick. "I feel like I'm rebranding myself over the last couple years. I feel like I'm putting my best foot forward going into the Nationwide Series with such a strong team like KHI."

And that could include a Nationwide championship. With NASCAR's new rule forcing drivers to pick one series in which to compete for a title, Sadler has become the favorite as he'll race full time in KHI's No. 2 Chevrolet.

Even other drivers figure he's the man to beat.

"It's hard to bet against Elliott," JR Motorsports' Aric Almirola said. "He's got a lot of experience, and he's a really good racecar driver. Kevin Harvick Inc. did a really good job with the new racecar. They were competitive right out of the box with it."

Is Sadler feeling the pressure? Doesn't seem to be.

"I have said this all throughout the offseason," Sadler said. "I'm having fun. This is the first time in several years that I am going to the racetrack excited to get in the car and have some fun. It reminds me of the days when I raced at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. I would come to the racetrack week in and week out as the odds-on favorite, and that is what made racing fun. Not only competing, but being the one to beat."

Fast facts

Drive4COPD 300
Where: Daytona International Speedway
When: Saturday, 1:15 p.m. Eastern
TV: ESPN2, noon Eastern
Radio: PRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128
Track layout: 2.5-mile superspeedway
Race distance: 120 laps/300 miles
Qualifying: Friday, 4:10 p.m. Eastern
2010 winner: Tony Stewart
2010 polesitter: Kyle Busch