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2010 NASCAR Driver Review: Elliott Sadler

Elliott Sadler

2010 Ride: No. 19 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
2010 Primary Sponsor: Stanley Tools
2010 Owners: George Gillett Jr., Richard Petty, Max Jones
2010 Crew Chiefs: Todd Parrott (Feb. – July); Wally Rogers (July – Nov.)
2010 Stats: 36 starts, 0 wins; 0 top fives, 1 top 10, 1 pole, 4 DNFs, 27th in points

High Point: Sadler scored a pole at Texas but failed to lead a single lap. Instead, his high point was the second Michigan race in August, when he led four circuits and bagged his only top-10 finish of the season. Sadler’s prowess on plate tracks still shone through as well, especially at Daytona where he led 20 laps and was in contention during both the 500 that February and the Coke Zero 400 in July.

Low Point: While most of the season could be considered a low point for Sadler, who was unable to score a top-five finish, August’s Pocono race added insult to injury. Sadler was caught up in the big crash of the day, running head-on into the inside wall of the Long Pond straightaway at over 150 mph. Hitting where SAFER barriers were not installed, the impact was so severe the engine from Sadler’s car was torn free and left in a steaming hulk on the racing surface. Sadler was shaken up but uninjured for the most part from the highest-rated G-force accident since NASCAR began gathering that data.

Summary: 2010 was a mess for everyone involved with RPM and Sadler was not immune. The financial troubles of the organization resulted in not only drivers worrying about their future with the team but simply wondering if they’d have cars at the racetrack at all for the last four weeks of the season.

With the writing on the wall from the Daytona 500 – this team tried to dump Sadler in January, 2009 before being held to a contract that expired this November – the likable Virginian spent the last nine months a lame duck, auditioning to land a ride for the 2011 season elsewhere. The team was out of the Chase by midsummer, often struggling to finish on the lead lap with equipment and chemistry that both appeared to be lacking.

In an impressive statistical accomplishment, Sadler’s average starting position for 2010 was 24.8 and his average finishing position was 24.8. Neither number was obviously all that impressive, though, this year marking the last of a five-year tenure where Sadler underachieved with the No. 19. He went winless at RPM, scoring just three top-five finishes and never finishing higher than 24th in points.

On a brighter note, 2010 did mark Sadler’s 400th career start in the Cup Series when he took the green flag in the first race at Phoenix. But that’s just about the only positive Sadler can take from a disappointing year.

Team Ranking: Fourth. With just a lone top-10 finish, Sadler was easily ranked the lowest of the four full-time drivers in the RPM stable. Sadler finished the season 27th in points, four slots behind Paul Menard and seemingly a step behind each of his three counterparts on speed throughout the year.

Off-Track News: Sadler and his wife Amanda welcomed their first child, a boy, on Feb. 15. Wyatt Herman Fritz Sadler was born at 9:47 a.m. in Richmond, Va. to the happy couple.

2011 Outlook: The financial turmoil at RPM resulted in the organization cutting back to two teams for 2011, and with Sadler’s contract expiring he spent much of the second half of the season looking for a ride. When no Cup seats were offered, Sadler chose to take his talents to Kevin Harvick Inc. to drive full-time in the Nationwide Series. He will most likely be in the No. 2 car sponsored by CitiFinancial, paired with one-off sponsorship from other, smaller backers like Armour Vienna Sausages as the team expects to compete for the championship.

See also
The Yellow Stripe: For Elliott Sadler, Jamie McMurray Shows There Can Be a Brighter Tomorrow

He will also make some starts in the Camping World Truck Series for KHI, manning a No. 2 machine where he’s already enjoyed some success; his victory in it at Pocono last summer all but secured a long-term deal with the organization.

2006 Frontstretch Grade: D
2007 Grade: B-
2008 Grade: D
2009 Grade: D
2010 Grade: D

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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