Friday, September 6, 2013

Sadler looks for victory at Richmond while honoring a legend

1004701_10201258839186412_2114739097_nHistory will be made tonight under the lights of Richmond International Raceway as the NASCAR Nationwide Series runs its 1,000th race.

Of the 45 drivers attempting to qualify for the Virginia 529 College Savings 250, only 13 were alive on Feb. 13, 1982 for the first race. The series current points leader, Sam Hornish Jr., was just 2 years old. In fact only two of the top 10 in the standings had been born. Ninth-place Kyle Larson was born nearly a decade later.

Who will win the 1,000th race? Based on recent history, it's a pretty safe bet to put money on a Sprint Cup Series driver taking home the checkered flag. Kyle Busch? Brad Keselowski?

If Elliott Sadler has anything to say about it, he'll be the one doing burnouts on the frontstretch. Sadler, who currently sits third in series points, is honoring 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Jack Ingram this weekend at RIR. Ingram won the inaugural Nationwide Series Championship and earned a second title in 1985.

Ingram said on Friday that Harry Gant would induct him into the Hall of Fame in January. Ingram also noted that during his time, Cup Series teams would have been outgunned if they had tried to race in the Nationwide Series as they do now because the cars were so different from each other.

Sadler's Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota will carry the One Main Financial branding as usual, but the stylization of the No. 11 will differ from what we normally see. Sadler considers RIR to be his home track and is overjoyed with being able to honor one of his childhood heroes this weekend. He laughingly told members of the media that before he left for the track his dad told him he had to run well so that he didn't make a fool out of Ingram.

Sadler's up to the challenge.

In 20 Nationwide Series Starts at RIR, the Emporia native has an average finish of 15.6 but that isn't indicative of how he's run the last three seasons. Since moving back to the Nationwide Series full time in 2011, Sadler has recorded five top-10 finishes at Richmond and finished sixth in July. It's been a roller coaster of a season, but a win this weekend would give him the momentum he needs for the final push toward his first title. If he can win while honoring a racing legend, that’s just icing on the cake.

"The car looks great, but it will look even better with a lot of confetti on it," Sadler said. "That's the approach me and my team are taking."

The 33rd Annual Virginia 529 College Savings 250 will get underway at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

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