On Saturday, Elliott Sadler picked up his third win of the 2016 season in Kentucky, winning the inaugural race in the Chase for the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The win, which guarantees him a spot in the Round of 8, means a win at Kansas, Texas, or Phoenix automatically puts him in contention for the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship at Homestead.
The win had extra significance for Sadler after an emotional week with his mother.
“We fought through a lot tonight," said Sadler following the victory. "I'm going to get a little emotional on you, I've been in the hospital all week with my mom in ICU watching her fight and fight through a lot of pain and suffering. (She) made her way back home tonight to watch the race. Mom, I love you. She leads so much by example."
Sadler used his mother’s strength as motivation during the race.
"She's a tough rascal, man," said Sadler. "If I can see my 70-year-old mom fight like that to get better and want to make it home, I sure as hell can fight inside the racecar and do a better job."
Sadler’s chances of starting the Chase on the right track seemed slim midway through the race on Saturday.
"At halfway, we were running 20th," said Sadler. "By my calculations, we were probably 10th or 11th in points, so to fight back that last 100 laps to gain that kind of momentum probably means a lot for us and these guys. I'm so proud of these guys.”
Kentucky wasn’t the first emotional victory lane for Sadler.
While dealing with his mother’s illness, Sadler learned on August 24th that his main sponsor, OneMain Financial, would return for the 2017 season after they had previously announced they wouldn’t return after 2016. Additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Sadler’s boss, announced the day before the Darlington race that he would remain on the sidelines for the remainder of the year.
After a whirlwind of emotions over the previous two weeks, Sadler won at Darlington, dedicating the win to his mentor and friend.
"This is for Dale Earnhardt Jr.," said Sadler after winning at Darlington. “This is for you, my man!"
Sadler continued to reflect on Earnhardt’s situation and how much it means to him to work for a man that he respects so much.
“To see him have to take a step back is really tough on him, but to see him handling it the way he is means a lot to me as a driver, but also as a friend,” said Sadler. “He's given me a great opportunity to drive his cars this year and I think he 100 percent pays attention to what we do and how good we run. I'm very honored and humbled to be the one to be able to win for him."
After Darlington, Sadler continued to race well in the next two races, scoring Top-Five finishes in Richmond and Chicago.
The win on Saturday marked Sadler’s fourth straight Top-Five finish, his best stretch of racing since 2014.
“This is a great way to start off the Chase and keeps the momentum on our side,” said Sadler. “We can relax and go to Dover and have fun there and Charlotte and get ready for the second round."
The second round of the Chase for the NASCAR XFINITY Series begins at Kansas Speedway on October 15th. Tickets are on sale now for both the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and the inaugural Chase for the NASCAR XFINITY Series and can be purchased by calling 866.460.7223 or logging on to www.kansasspeedway.com for the Hollywood Casino 400, the fifth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Oct. 16, the Kansas Lottery 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race on Oct. 15, and the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season finale on Oct. 14.
General parking is always free at Kansas Speedway and fans can bring in one 14x14x14-inch soft-sided cooler with their favorite food and beverages.
Fans can follow Kansas Speedway on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KansasSpeedway or follow us on Twitter (@kansasspeedway).