Elliott Sadler takes over the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota for the final four races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season starting this weekend in Martinsville.
It’s a temporary fill-in role for Brian Vickers due to Vickers’ latest health issue, but it could also serve as an audition for Sadler to possibly return to Cup after a journey back to the Nationwide ranks.
Sadler has started only one Cup race this year (finished 24th at Kansas in April in a fourth Joe Gibbs Toyota) and one in 2012 (10th in a fourth Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet at the Daytona 500). So he’s been off the Cup radar for the better part of three years as teams have looked elsewhere to fill vacancies.
What Vickers has accomplished in his own road back to Cup has seriously impressed the Emporia, Va. native.
“How Brian is handling all of this; I’ll be honest with you – I’m not sure I could do this,” Sadler said in a team release heading into the weekend. “The way he handled it last time and fought back, working his way back through the ranks and getting himself a fulltime ride with Michael Waltrip Racing was amazing. For him to have this setback again is really hard to watch. It is tough to see a friend go through what he is going through. I’m just there to fill in these last four races and get these guys to the end of the year.”
Sadler did speak highly of the MWR/Joe Gibbs Racing relationship, which has played a major role in Sadler being picked to fill his Nationwide teammate’s seat.
“The relationship between MWR and Joe Gibbs Racing was already really close,” Sadler said. “When I called (JGR President) J.D. (Gibbs) and asked about it he said ‘Man, that’s great for you, a wonderful opportunity, we’ll do all we can to help MWR.’ It’s pretty neat how close these guys all try to work together and help each other out. It wasn’t a really big hard decision to make. The guys worked it out pretty well.”
Sadler’s last Cup start at Martinsville came in the fall of 2010, when he finished 28th driving a Richard Petty Motorsports Ford. In 24 prior Martinsville starts, Sadler has a best finish of fifth (spring, 2003) and two other top-10 finishes.