Auto Racing

Elliott Sadler still loves racing in NASCAR

But veteran driver likes being a dad even more

Elliott Sadler celebrates his win at the fourth Annual U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway in 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Elliott Sadler celebrates his win at the fourth Annual U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway in 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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Elliott Sadler has been around the block more than a few times.

Or, in his case, around the racetrack.

The veteran driver first sat behind the wheel in a top-level NASCAR event at the age of 20 in 1995. He was a regular in the Cup series from 1999 to 2010, missing only one start during that span. He won three Cup races, including two in 2004.

In 2011 he moved exclusively to the Xfinity Series, a step down to some but a step, for Sadler, in the right direction.

“I’m extremely happy where I’m at,” he said during a telephone interview earlier this week. “I have no desire to get back in the Cup series.”

Sadler, 43, got married 10 years ago and now has two children, an 8-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter.

“I want to be a dad,” he said.

He likes the freedom the Xfinity Series and his bosses at JR Motorsports give him.

“It’s cool to be a good race driver or a decent race driver,” he said. “But it’s better to be a good dad.

“I have lived that dream. I had my fun and did my part ... I’ve been selfish long enough.”

The Xfinity Series runs most of its races on Saturdays, making Sunday a time Sadler can hang out with his family.

“It’s made racing so much fun,” he said.

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This week is different, however. There is no Cup race, so the Xfinity event will take the Sunday slot.

There’s a good trade-off, however. Sadler will race at Iowa Speedway, one of his favorite stops in the series, in the Iowa 250.

“Statistically, it’s been my best track on the circuit,” he said.

In 15 starts in Iowa, Sadler has 13 top 10 finishes, seven top fives and won the U.S. Cellular 250 in 2012.

“I absolutely love this racetrack,” he said. “It’s got so much character.”

He’d like to get back into the winners’ circle Sunday. He leads the Xfinity points race and has 12 top 10 finishes — seven top 5s — in 13 starts. But he has yet to see the checkered flag.

“We definitely want to win a race,” he said. “We’ve been in position a couple of times.

“We’ve definitely been consistent. We just have to figure out a way to finish the deal.”

Sadler is one of the most successful drivers on any circuit. Not only has he won three Cup races, but he owns 13 Xfinity wins, including eight since going full-time in the series in 2011.

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He also is one of only 27 drivers who have won races in NASCAR’s top three divisions. He captured a Camping World Truck Series win in 2010.

“NASCAR is a tough sport,” he said. “I’ve learned that you’ve got to put all into it. You’ve got to be all in or all out.”

Although he may be racing in NASCAR’s “minor leagues” now, he’s still into it.

“I still have that burning desire, that burning edge to win and run up front,” he said.

And he’s still a big fan of the sport. He grew up around the auto racing in Emporia, Va., and his family had season tickets at some of racing’s biggest tracks. His brother, Hermie, also drove in NASCAR’s circuits.

“This is all we’ve ever done,” he said. “We grew up fans of the sport first. Not many people get to be on both sides of the fence.”

But while racing still is important, family comes first. Not only does he love being a husband and dad, he also works on causes close to his heart and family. He got involved in the Autism Speaks charity years ago after a niece was born with autism. He championed breast cancer awareness after his mother was diagnosed with the disease. And he is bringing awareness to food allergies on behalf of kaleo after his son’s life-threatening reaction to peanuts when he was 2.

“We’ve always had a lot of platforms to stand on,” Sadler said. “I want people to know we’re an ordinary family. I’m an ordinary dad. I happen to have a cool job on weekends.”

NASCAR IOWA SPEEDWAY

Xfinity Series

What: Iowa 250, presented by Enogen

Distance: 218.75 miles around a .875-mile oval (250 laps).

TV: Sunday, 4 p.m. (green flag approx. 4:16 p.m. ET), FS1; Qualifying at 2:35 p.m., FS2

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Notes: This is the 14th of 33 races this season ... Iowa Speedway, designed partially by NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace, opened in 2006 and hosted its first Xfinity race in 2009. The series has raced there twice a year since 2011 ... William Byron won this race last year, with Ryan Preece winning the late summer race. ... Elliott Sadler leads the Xfinity standings with 495 points, followed by Cole Custer (454), Daniel Hemric (446), Tyler Reddick (440), Christopher Bell (423), Justin Allgaier (393), Brandon Jones (387), Ryan Truex (385), Matt Tifft (351) and Ryan Reed (333).

Camping World Truck Series

What: M&M’s 200

Distance: 175 miles (200 laps)

TV: Saturday, 6 p.m. (green flag approx. 6:16 p.m.), FS1

Notes: The series gets set for its second of a three-race stretch, coming off Texas before heading to the outskirts of St. Louis ... This is the ninth of 23 races this season ... This will be the 12th series race in Iowa ... John Hunter Nemechek won this race last year ... Johnny Sauter won the race last week at Texas, his fourth victory of the season ... Sauter leads the Truck standings (378 points), followed by Noah Gragson (301) and Brett Moffitt (283).

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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