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Elliott Sadler seeks redemption in return to Nashville

Elliott Sadler
Elliott Sadler

By Lee Montgomery
Special to Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service


Elliott Sadler could be looking to pad his NASCAR Nationwide Series points lead in Saturday's Federated Auto Parts 300 at Nashville Superspeedway.

Or he could be looking for his first victory of the season-and his first in NASCAR Sprint Cup or Nationwide competition since 2004.

Or he could be looking to become the ninth different winner in a row in the Nationwide Series.

Or he could be looking for his first top 10 at the track after two prior starts - one in Nationwide.

Nope, nope, nope and nope - though they all would be nice.

What is Sadler looking for in Saturday's race?

"Redemption," the veteran driver said earlier this week.

Why?

Because Nashville was a turning point for his No. 2 Kevin Harvick Inc. team earlier this year. Sadler started slowly in his return to the Nationwide Series, missing out on a top-10 finish in the first three races.

He then reeled off four consecutive top-fives heading into Nashville, the series' first standalone race of the season in April. However, he ended up a non-factor in 13th at the Tennessee track, dropping to sixth in the points standings.

"We're looking forward to going back this weekend and running a lot better than we did the first time," Sadler said. "It was a great wake-up call to our race team. We are definitely prepared and better understand what we want out of these cars than we were the first time going to Nashville. That was my first time racing at night at that track.

"But we feel very confident and pretty good about this weekend going back to Nashville. It's a fun place to race, (with) one of the most exciting trophies in the whole sport, the Gibson guitar. We'll definitely have that on our mind when we show up this weekend."

The track awards winners a Sam Bass-designed Gibson guitar, which has become one of the more popular trophies in NASCAR.

But getting one won't be easy. A non-Cup driver hasn't won on Nashville's 1.333-mile concrete track since 2008, when Brad Keselowski went to victory lane while still driving for JR Motorsports. Keselowski and Carl Edwards are the only full-time Cup drivers entered this weekend, though Edwards won the April race.

"Going back to these tracks for the second time, we feel very confident about what we need to do," Sadler said. "(Crew chief) Ernie (Cope) and I just had this conversation Monday morning. Halfway through the season, we're leading the points. Some races we run very good at, some races we've thrown away and did not run good at. We have to take all the positives we can.

"But we're in the position we want to be in. We're going back to a lot of these tracks for the second time. We feel very confident about the packages we have. KHI, whether it's a mile-and-a-half track, whether it's a mile track, road course, we feel like we got really good stuff and we're going to make everybody chase us down for the championship."

Fast facts

What: Federated Auto Parts 300
Where: Nashville Superspeedway; Lebanon, Tenn.
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Eastern
TV: ESPN, 7 p.m.
Radio: MRN/Sirius-XM Satellite Ch. 90
Track layout: 1.333-mile oval
Race distance: 225 laps/300 miles
Qualifying: Saturday, 3:35 p.m. Eastern
2010 winner: Brad Keselowski
2010 polesitter: Justin Allgaier
Points standings: 1. Elliott Sadler, 673; 2. Reed Sorenson, 666; 3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 655; 4. Justin Allgaier, 632; 5.Aric Almirola, 592; 6. Jason Leffler, 582; 7. Kenny Wallace, 571; 8. Steve Wallace, 525; 9.Michael Annett, 520; 10. Brian Scott, 510.