Elliott Sadler faces last race with mixed emotions

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 03: Elliott Sadler, driver of the #1 OneMain Financial Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 3, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

There’s a lot Elliott Sadler will miss after he runs his final race as a full-time NASCAR driver on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Sadler will miss the competition and the friends he has made within the sport. But he’s also looking forward to a schedule that keeps him at home with his family. And he’ll get his share of competition, not behind the wheel of a stock car, but as a coach for his son Wyatt in youth baseball.

“When I left for Phoenix (last week), my daughter said, ‘This is the last time you’re leaving home, Dad,’” Sadler said on Friday at Homestead. “And I thought to myself, ‘This is the last time I’ve got to leave my kids to go do something that’s just for me, that’s not really for my family’—it’s not their dreams, it’s not something that they’re doing.

“Now when I leave the house, it’s with them or for them, something they’re involved in. I’ve been coaching going on 13 or 14 years now but have really gotten into it a lot the last couple of years. I thoroughly enjoy it, and that’s what’s going to keep me motivated and keep me going. I still have that competition side of it, and I’m looking forward to that.”

Though Sadler never won the NASCAR title, he has no misgivings about calling it a career after Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

“I wanted to win a Daytona 500, because it was so close,” Sadler said. “I wanted to win a championship, because it was so close so many times in the Xfinity Series… but to be one of only 18 drivers, I think, that has a pole and a win in all three series in the sport—I’m the only driver in NASCAR history that was a part of the Xfinity Playoffs and the Cup Playoffs.

“I won the very first-ever Playoff race in the Xfinity Series. You name a couple of those things, and, doggone it, that’s pretty good. Yes, I wish we had some other things we could have hung our hat on. We came up short, but we gave it everything we could…

“But I have no regrets. I have absolutely no regrets at all for the time I had and the experience I’ve had.”

Greg Engle