By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – When the checkered flag falls on Saturday night, it will also be the checkered flag on Elliott Sadler’s driving career as he will hang up his helmet and retire from full-time driving after 23 years behind the wheel.
Even though he came up just short of making the Championship 4 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series to go and race for the title one last time, Sadler will still be focused on winning the Ford EcoBoost 300 to go out on top and will be doing so with a special piece of hardware with him in the car – a helmet modeled after the paint scheme that adorned his race car when he first started racing.
“My wife and kids had done a deal to paint a helmet, an exact replica of my first ever helmet from 1993 when I drove a late model, so it’s that bright yellow that my car used to be,” Sadler said. “I wanted the car to look like that, but I got voted down, so the helmet was a good replacement for that. But it was neat for my kids to hand it to me and then I gave them some Sharpies and told them to go to town. The helmet is definitely something special that will go home with me tomorrow night.”
Sadler noted that though tomorrow’s race would be emotional, he is looking forward to running the 300-mile event in front of a slew of family, friends and well wishers that will be attendance for the race, as well as the extra time that he’ll now get to spend with his family in the months and years to come.
“Dale Jr. put it the best way to me when we had our discussions kind of when he retired. You’re not retiring from something, you’re kind of retiring to something and that’s the way I’m looking at it. I’m not retiring really from racing, I’m retiring to the next chapter of my life that involves a lot of my kids and it involves a lot of coaching. A lot of other things that I want to do that I have on my plate.
While Sadler isn’t planning on driving again, the Emporia, Virginia native said Friday that he’s not ruling out climbing behind the wheel again sometime in the future, but on the other hand, hopes Homestead will indeed be his final race.
“Not a Cup race, I’ll never run another Cup race,” Sadler said. “If they’re a one-off, great opportunity Xfinity car, maybe go run a race, I might do that one day, but honestly, I hope this is it. I’ve been doing this a long time. Let some of these other guys come in here and have some fun.
“If a great opportunity comes up, maybe, but honestly, I kind of hope tomorrow night’s it.”
Though he says missing out on a championship, especially last season “still hurts and still burns,” Sadler said that he is at peace with how his career has turned out.
Sadler has accumulated numerous wins in both the Cup Series and Xfinity Series and as of now his NASCAR statistics stand at three Cup Series wins, 19 top-five finishes, 69 top-10 finishes, eight poles, and 1251 laps led, along with 13 Xfinity wins, 106 top-five finishes, 226 laps led, 18 poles, and 2056 laps led.
“It’s going to be tough not being a NASCAR champion …some of us drivers, and I’m one of them, just want more, because that’s just the competitive nature of you. I wanted to win a Daytona 500, I was so close. I wanted to win a championship. I was so close a lot of times in the Xfinity Series.
“I wish I had some other things I could hang my hat on, but we came up a little short. We gave it all we could. I’m going to use the same words Mark Martin did. I have no regrets. I have absolutely no regrets at all for the time I had and the experience I had. I have a few what ifs. What if I would have made a better decision or done a few other things, but I have no regrets.
“I’ve had a really good career, made some really great friends and that’s the part I’m going to cherish.”