Time for Sadler to step up

CONCORD, NC - MAY 23:  Elliott Sadler, driver of the #11 OneMain Financial Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 23, 2013 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

CONCORD, NC – MAY 23: Elliott Sadler, driver of the #11 OneMain Financial Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 23, 2013 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

The past two years Elliott Sadler has come so close to capturing the NASCAR Nationwide Series title, only to finish runner-up to Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

With Stenhouse now competing full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, conventional wisdom would say it is Sadler’s crown to lose this year. And, he just might if he’s not able to carve out more top-five finishes with a win sprinkled in here and there.

It’s not that he’s having a bad season; it’s just not a blow-the-doors-off-the-competition, stop-the-presses kind of year many expected. When Sadler and the rest of his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team start Saturday afternoon’s History 300 (2:45 p.m. ET, ABC) at Charlotte, he’ll be third in the standings, 42 points behind leader Regan Smith.

In nine races this season, he has three top fives and five top 10s, including a runner-up finish in the most recent race at Darlington. His team’s strong performance at the South Carolina track should provide them a boost of confidence as they prepare for a stretch of 21 consecutive weeks in which the NASCAR Nationwide drivers will be on track.

“This OneMain Financial team has a lot of momentum coming off our second-place finish at Darlington Raceway,” said Sadler.

He has made 12 series starts at Charlotte with a driver rating of 93.8, but has never been to Victory Lane. His last three races here have resulted in a fourth, fifth and third, to go along with a second-place finish that come in 2005. In all, he has four top fives and five top 10s with one pole.

So, he’s due to take the next step and claim the checkered flag.

Although Sadler will primarily be focused on getting his car to Victory Lane, he is quick to point out the importance of the weekend.

“The teams and the track do such a good job of inviting military members and their families, and celebrating the troops abroad all weekend long,” said Sadler. “It’s a great weekend as an American and as a race fan to remember what our military does to keep us safe.”

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