Richard Childress Racing
February 6, 2012
Elliott Sadler ready for another run at Nationwide title, this time with RCR backing
"I've already seen a difference on a lot of stuff. We feel like right now our cars are prepared as good as we can make them."
Author: Kenny Bruce
Date: February 4, 2012
Elliott Sadler battled for the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship in 2011 with Kevin Harvick Inc.
Sadler did not win the championship, however.
And that, to some, was a major surprise.
“We kind of thought the same thing, that we would go in there and win a bunch of races and win the championship,” Sadler said. “We did have a chance ...”
Pairing a veteran driver with three career Cup wins and a proven organization that had enjoyed success in the Nationwide and truck series seemed to be a recipe for success. And in some ways it was. In his first full Nationwide season after more than a decade spent in the Cup series, Sadler scored 12 top-five finishes, 24 top-10s and led the points on five different occasions.
But there were no victories, and although he managed to close to within 15 points of leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with four races remaining, a crash at Phoenix in the season’s next-to-last event ended his title hopes.
In the meantime, Roush Fenway Racing’s stable of drivers ended the season with an even dozen wins, and the title, with Stenhouse Jr., (2 wins), Carl Edwards (8), Matt Kenseth (1) and Trevor Bayne (1) each visiting the winner’s circle.
So what happened?
“I just think this new  car threw us for a loop,” Sadler said. “If you look at the stats, and I’m a stat guy, at KHI, we did not win a race other than Tony Stewart at Daytona – he can win in a dump truck, I think, at Daytona.
“As many races as Kevin Harvick drove and Clint Bowyer drove ... great race-car drivers, we just didn’t win a race. It’s not from lack of effort. I think we actually had the good stuff to do it with, it just never played out in our favor with either car.
“We raced against Roush and I think they had 10 or 11 wins. They really had a handle on this new Nationwide car. They got it figured out.”
For 2012, Sadler once again expects to contend for the title, and the move that saw KHI’s Nationwide program be absorbed by Richard Childress Racing is expected to provide even more benefits.
Luke Lambert, interim crew chief for RCR Cup driver Jeff Burton during the second half of 2011, will serve as crew chief for Sadler and the No. 2 team. Austin Dillon, the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, will run the full schedule with crew chief Danny Stockman in the No. 3 entry while Brendan Gaughan, Harvick and Paul Menard will split seat time in the organization’s No. 33, which will be run by crew chief Ernie Cope.
The biggest boost, Sadler said, should come from the engineering side, with Nationwide teams getting any and all pertinent data accumulated by the organization’s three Cup teams.
“The Cup cars always have a huge engineering budget,” he said. “They get a lot of wind tunnel time, they get a lot of seven-post time. They get a lot of simulation program help from Chevrolet and stuff like that. I think being in the same shop, a lot of that has trickled down to us. We’re just like a B group Cup team under them.
“We’re getting a lot of help that we just did not get last year. And Kevin saw it. When all this was going on, he said, ‘Trust me. We’re all going to be better off. I’ve been there and done that; I’ve run for RCR in the Nationwide Series, I understand the help they’re going to get.’
“It’s not like [the previous RCR Nationwide program] sucked or anything. They’ve had great programs. Won championships, won a lot of races.”
RCR drivers have won 56 Nationwide races, and a pair of driver titles, with Harvick taking the championship in 2001 and 2006. The organization scaled back its involvement in the series in 2009 with a handful of drivers running limited schedules.
Now that it’s ramping back up, Sadler says he can’t wait to hit the track.
“I’ve already seen a difference on a lot of stuff,” he said. “We feel like right now our cars are prepared as good as we can make them. We really feel like we’ve got our stuff together here to start the first four or five races.”
If you would like to read this article as it appears on SceneDaily.com, CLICK HERE.