News & Media

In the Draft: Going from lakes to the Bullring

August 23, 2011, Elliott Sadler, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Sadler's 61.6-pound tuna no comparison to excitement of Bristol return

I was able to leave town for a bit last week and head out to one of my favorite places -- the Outer Banks, N.C. My buddies and I participate in the four-day Pirate's Cove Billfish Tournament each year on the boat "Rigged Up".

I actually won the Yellow Fin Tuna division of the tournament ... I caught a tuna that weighed 61.6 pounds. Let me tell you, it took a while to get that sucker in the boat. I did have to cut out a day early this year to head up to Montreal, but we had a great time letting loose on the water.

"Of course, you always want to win, but at the same time, we have a greater goal of going for the Nationwide Series championship ... so that makes strategy come into play just a little bit more."


We had back-to-back road-course races, going from Watkins Glen to Montreal. I typically run well at road courses, so I enjoyed the events.

Watkins Glen is a great area. I have competed up there several times in the past, and I always enjoy escaping the humidity we face in the south. Our overall weekend was pretty good. We qualified fourth and raced up near the top of the board until some cars in front of me went off course. As they weaved back on the course, they brought grass and debris with them, which got all over my grille. The car began spouting water, a sign of overheating, so we had to come in for an unscheduled pit stop. We fought back toward the front, but got caught speeding on pit road. We finished 10th as we moved onto the final road-course race of the season at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada.

Montreal is also a cool city. I was able to have some really good food and meet some great people. I'm not proficient in French, and I've joked with several people over the past week that being from Southern Virginia, some people say that I have a hard time with English as well. The fans up in Canada are great, and I really think that racing in Canada is a great asset for NASCAR. Even on practice day, the stands were full, which is great for us to see.

It was my first time competing there, so it took a while to get the course under my belt. I watched several hours of video from races in the past, including the in-car camera footage from Max Papis last year when he finished second in the No. 33 KHI car. There are so many intricacies of the track, I watched the footage and took notes to help prepare. We made progress throughout the weekend, and qualified for the event 16th. In road courses like Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, you always have guys come in to race that specialize in road courses, so we knew we had tough competition.

In situations like that, I have to be in a mind frame of knowing who I am racing. Of course, you always want to win, but at the same time, we have a greater goal of going for the Nationwide Series championship. We are getting down to the wire and every point counts, so that makes strategy come into play just a little bit more. You have to know who you are racing against and just maintain consistency throughout the entire event.

The race was fun. The fans were all around the track ... in the stands, on the grassy areas, by the water. Everyone was so excited, which got us excited. We had a really great car, but about midway through the race, we got hit and sustained some damage. Thankfully the damage wasn't too bad, and we didn't get too far behind. We ended up fighting back for a 10th-place finish, which ended up being a great points day for us. Heading into next week, we are only eight points out of the lead. With 10 races remaining, the competition is heating up!

Next, we are onto Bristol, which is one of my favorite tracks. I think this track is one of the most special to me because my dad took me here as a kid. I was a fan at the track first, so I think that is what made winning at the track in 1998 in the Nationwide Series and then in the Cup Series so special. It's crazy to think that I was once that kid in the stands, and then I had the opportunity to win at that track.

The night races at Bristol are just special. The atmosphere is electric, and I don't think you can explain the excitement that fans and drivers alike get walking into the track. It's an experience unlike any other in racing, and I hope that some of you will be able to make it out to Bristol this weekend for the races!

Until next time...Holla!

In the Draft with Elliott Sadler is a twice-monthly blog and the opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. Follow him and the No. 2 KHI team on Twitter: @Elliott_Sadler, @OneMainRacing or @KHI_NNS.