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Chase nearly clinched, Sadler aims higher

By wire services
Published September 7, 2004

FONTANA, Calif. - Elliott Sadler has an appointment to be fitted for a tuxedo.

After winning the Pop Secret 500 Sunday night at California Speedway and all but nailing down a spot in NASCAR's new Chase for the Nextel Cup playoff, Sadler could hardly contain his excitement about a possible trip to New York City in December for the annual postseason awards banquet.

Only the top 10 in points get to go on stage at the gala, and Sadler is ready right now.

"I've been in racing a couple of years now and I never got to go to New York," Sadler said. "I'm going to go get my tuxedo next weekend and I'm going to get all fitted up so I can look all snazzy when I go up on stage in New York."

First, though, he has a little business to take care of.

If Sadler simply starts Saturday night's race at Richmond International Raceway, he will lock up his spot in the top 10. Once that is done, the 29-year-old driver from Emporia, Va., has a considerably higher goal.

"I think we can win the championship," said Sadler, who never finished better than 20th in his first five years in NASCAR's top stock car series.

Todd Parrott, his crew chief and the man who guided Robert Yates Racing teammate Dale Jarrett to a title in 1999, agrees.

"Getting into the top 10 is a goal that we set out to do at the start of the year," Parrott said. "If we finish 10th in the points, that's a great accomplishment. But I think we have a shot to win the championship."

Sadler and Parrott pointed to the team's consistency as the reason for their confidence.

Since beginning the season with a seventh-place finish in the Daytona 500, Sadler's No. 38 Ford never has been out of the top 10. He is the only full-time driver in the series who has been running at the end of every race and, going into Richmond, Sadler has two wins, seven top fives and 11 top 10s in 25 races.

Sadler, in his second season with the Yates team, gives a lot of the credit to Parrott, who began to work with the driver late last season after a year filled with chaos and disappointment.

"The best decision we made was bringing him on board at the end of last year to give me and him some races to work together because the first four or five races we didn't understand each other," Sadler said. "We were kind of speaking different languages and we both kind of put our feelings on our sleeves when we were talking about the race car. We had to overcome that.

"The more we worked together, the better we got. When we showed up at Daytona this year, man, we were just in the full groove and getting better and better."

NHRA: Gary Densham topped a big day for his boss, John Force, collecting the Funny Car championship over Cruz Pedregon at the 50th U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park to go with Sunday's Skoal Showdown win to earn a $50,000 double-up bonus.

Minutes earlier, Force's daughter, Ashley, scored her first career win in Alcohol Dragster.

Joining Densham in the IRP winner's circle were Tony Schumacher, who won Top Fuel for the fourth time in five years, defeating Doug Kalitta in the final; Greg Anderson, whose 13th Pro Stock victory over Ken Koretsky is a class record; and Antron Brown, who won for the second time at Indianapolis and handed Shawn Gann his fourth straight Indy runnerup in Pro Stock Bike.

Schumacher earned his third Indy win in a row and fourth in the past five years to move into second place on the all-time Indy Top Fuel win list behind Don Garlits. He joined Garlits as the only Top Fuel driver to win Indy three years in a row. Garlits did it from 1984-86.

[Last modified September 6, 2004, 23:29:20]


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