- Dillon Driving Legendary Black No. 3 In His Quest For A Second NASCAR Championship
- Hornish Jr. Has Renewed Confidence In Stock-Car Racing Career
- Will Patrick’s Texas Familiarity Be The Booster For Her First Full-Time Nationwide Season?
FORT WORTH, Texas (April 9, 2012) – The NASCAR Nationwide Series is often considered a transition phase for those migrating toward Sprint Cup competition. Elliott Sadler, however, considers his full-time Nationwide ride a step forward in his racing career, as the Emporia, Va., native is riding a wave of momentum into Friday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Sadler switched gears in 2011, leaving a 12-year Sprint Cup career to compete full time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Kevin Harvick, Inc. With 12 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes, he ended the season second in the series champion – 45 points behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Sadler is back in the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet this season, but now racing for championship-winning organization Richard Childress Racing as the team’s ownership shifted upon conclusion of last season.
“Anybody that’s a race fan or has been around this sport a long time knows what kind of person Richard Childress is,” Sadler said. “He’s just a great guy and a man’s man. I’ve always been friends with him in the sport and in the business. We always talk about a lot of outdoorsy stuff, but to now be an employee for RCR and to work for Richard and share a common goal to try to go win a Nationwide championship is very neat for me. I’m very blessed to be in this situation and I’m going to try to make the most of it.”
From the looks of Sadler’s performance in the season’s first five races, a Nationwide championship run is off to a strong start. Sadler hasn’t started or finished outside of single digits yet, earning two wins, finishing ninth or better and starting eighth or better in all five races. That consistently has landed him the top position in the points standings, 18 ahead of Stenhouse Jr.
“I feel like we learned a lot from last year – good and bad,” Sadler said. “We had a successful season but not the season we wanted. We didn’t reach the goal we wanted to reach and that was winning a championship. We missed it by a little bit. We just have to work harder. All the Chevrolet teams have worked hard this year to make our teams better and we feel like we’ve made some improvements and that we’re going to be very strong, so we’re going to go after that championship again.”
Sadler has three top fives and five top 10s in his eight Nationwide starts at Texas Motor Speedway. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to win at “The Great American Speedway!” as he garnered a win during his Sprint Cup career in the 2004 Samsung/Radio Shack 500. In Sadler’s last visit to Texas in November, he won the pole en route to a ninth-place finish in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge.
“Ever since the first time I came to Texas back in 1997, I have been successful at Texas,” Sadler said. “We always seem to unload quickly and find a lot of speed right off the bat. I had a great car there in the fall driving for Kevin Harvick Inc. when we won the pole. I think that we’ve made improvements as a team and me as a driver since then, so it’s going to be really fun to get back there.
“It’s a great race track for not only the drivers, but the fans. The night race there is something special. Eddie Gossage is one of the best track promoters in the industry, and he always puts on a show for the fans and gets the fans involved in the fun that is Texas Motor Speedway. I’m pumped to get back to Fort Worth with my new RCR OneMain Financial team with a fast car to compete for that cowboy hat.”
The NASCAR Nationwide Series hits the track Thursday with a practice session at 6:40 p.m. CT and drivers will return to the track Friday morning for final practice at 10 a.m. CT. The SportsDay Qualifying Day Powered by The Dallas Morning News kicks off at 4:05 p.m. CT and the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 will officially begin at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race are still available and can be purchased by calling (817) 215-8500 or visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.
Back In Black
For the first time in 11 years, Texas Motor Speedway fans will see a shiny black No. 3 car racing around the 1.5-mile speedway Friday night as the number – made famous by the late Dale Earnhardt – has returned to regular use on a NASCAR stock car with Austin Dillon in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
The No. 3 belongs to Dillon’s grandfather, team owner Richard Childress who won six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships with Earnhardt. Prior to Dillon’s Nationwide Series debut this season, the legendary car hadn’t been used full-time since Earnhardt’s passing in 2001. Dillon did sport the number on his truck in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in which he competed in during the 2010 and ’11 seasons, the latter culminating with a series title.
Racing the No. 3 is something Dillon has wanted since he was a kid. He used the number in his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East entries in 2008-09 and carried it over to the Camping World Truck Series where he earned rookie-of-the-year honors in 2010 and the championship the following season. Childress has a picture in his office of Dillon and Earnhardt standing with the Daytona 500 trophy in 1998.
"He's holding his fingers up right next to Dale looking," Childress said. "I know (Earnhardt) would be proud."
Five races into this season, Dillon is third in the Nationwide Series points standings with an average start of 6.0 and an average finish of 6.6, only finishing outside of the top 10 once (12th at Bristol). Friday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 will be Dillon's first Nationwide Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
“Winning rookie of the year is our first goal,” Dillon said. “We’ve got that rookie stripe behind us, so we’re going to try to win our third rookie of the year title. We won it in 2008 (K&N Pro Series East) and then in the truck series, so now we’re moving to the Nationwide Series hoping we can get it done. After that if we’re there at the end and have a shot at the points championship, that’s our ultimate goal and to win some races. We definitely need to take home some trophies for RCR.”
The last appearance of the No. 3 car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Texas Motor Speedway was in 2000 with Ron Hornaday Jr. driving for Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
Hornish Jr. Looking For His Texas Mojo
Three-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. has renewed confidence in his stock-car racing career as the Penske Racing driver now has a NASCAR win on his racing resume and has emerged as a top-five competitor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship.
“I’ve felt like we’ve put ourselves in the position to (win) several times, but we just never had it happen,” Hornish Jr. said. “It was a sense of relief that I got that first win and usually wins kind of breed wins. You get out there and get a win and start figuring out how to do it more often and hopefully we’re going to be able to do that a lot more often this year.”
Hornish Jr., who is tied with IZOD IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves for most Indy-car wins (three) at Texas Motor Speedway, heads to Fort Worth this week fifth in the Nationwide points standings with two top-10 finishes in his five starts this season. In six combined starts between the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series at Texas, Hornish Jr. has a best NASCAR finish of seventh in this past November’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge.
Popular female driver Danica Patrick has made the transition from the IZOD IndyCar Series to full-time stock car racing this season with JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and will make her third Nationwide Series start in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Friday.
With Patrick’s familiarity of the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 could start the momentum she has been lacking in her five Nationwide starts this season. With an average finish of 25.0 she is 17th in the championship standings.
In Patrick’s two previous Nationwide starts at “The Great American Speedway!” she has earned a finishing position of 22nd (2010 O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge) and 11th (2011 O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge). Patrick has eight IZOD IndyCar Series starts at Texas with five top 10s and two top fives.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who earned his first career Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series wins at Texas Motor Speedway, will be one of several full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers competing in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge. Earnhardt Jr. has two starts in the Nationwide Series this season with a best finish of second at Bristol. Other Sprint Cup drivers competing Friday are Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch. … Starting today, fans can submit photos of their Texas Motor Speedway campsite to Hot Rod’s Campsite Challenge for a chance to win an exclusive tailgate party prior to Friday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300. To enter fans must upload a photo of their campsite to Texas Motor Speedway’s Facebook page. On Friday at 8 a.m. CT, Hot Rod will visit and judge the top-five campsites with the most votes. Hot Rod will declare at winner at 10 a.m. CT and throw a tailgate party in the fans’ honor at 4:30 p.m. CT prior to the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.