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Fatherhood brings changing priorities for Elliott Sadler

Life is good for Elliott Sadler—at home and on the racetrack, where he has found new life in the Nationwide Series and is battling for the series championship.
Life is good for Elliott Sadler—at home and on the racetrack, where he has found new life in the Nationwide Series and is battling for the series championship.

By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

BROOKLYN, Mich. - For Elliott Sadler, life is good.

Sadler and wife Amanda are expecting their second child Nov. 11. On Tuesday, they found out it's a girl.

Sadler's 16-month-old son, Wyatt, is healthy and happy after two corrective surgeries to repair problems with his intestines and appendix shortly after he was born.

On the racetrack, Sadler has shaken off a string of frustrating seasons in the Sprint Cup Series and has found his niche in Kevin Harvick's No. 2 Nationwide Series Chevrolet. Sadler is second in the series standings, two points behind Reed Sorenson.

More than anything else, Sadler says fatherhood has changed him.

"It's definitely made me a better person," Sadler told Sporting News on Friday at Michigan International Speedway. "It's helped me cope with things more. Your priorities change. I never knew life could be this much fun. You hear from all of your friends how it's going to change your life, but you never really understand what that means until it happens."

Three years ago, Sadler moved backed to his native Virginia, where he and Amanda have a built-in support system.

"We have a home in Virginia right next to my family and her family," Sadler said. "That's been a great thing for me, moving back to Virginia. We're renovating our house, making it bigger because we've got another member of the family on the way."

During the renovation this summer, Sadler will move back into his parents' home. First, he'll learn the gender of his second child.

"We definitely want to know," Sadler said.

Sadler's relatives won't learn whether to expect a girl or boy until they gather for dinner.

"We invite both sides of the family to a dinner, and each family member wears a pink or blue shirt depending on what they think it is," Sadler said.

The families won't know the answer until they cut into a cake that arrives for dessert. Pink icing inside means a girl, blue icing a boy.

The real icing on Sadler's season, however, would be a championship. In what has proved to be an astute career move, Sadler dropped back to the Nationwide Series with an owner capable of providing championship-caliber equipment.

"It's a breath of fresh air," Sadler said. "I talked about having a family support group. Well, it's so awesome to have a support group in racing, too, with Kevin and (crew chief) Ernie (Cope) and the whole team. We have each other's backs."

Amanda and Wyatt didn't make the trip to Michigan this weekend, but Sadler, who races on Saturday, should be back home in time to celebrate Father's Day with his family on Sunday.

There's one Father's Day present he'd rather postpone, though.

"A win, with my son and wife there," Sadler said. "It would be amazing to have them in victory lane with me."

The Sadlers won't be together at a racetrack until Daytona, where Sadler will compete in the July 1 Subway Jalapeno 250.

For a Father's Day gift of that magnitude, however, Sadler won't mind if it's two weeks late.