Well, Friday afternoon while enjoying the Miami sun I get texted that Elliott Sadler is ‘back in the 19’. Even though I was still in a state of depression from the previous night’s National Championship game, this news was some of the most unusual driver/owner dilemmas I have seen in sometime, probably not seen since the days of Robert Yates, and Ricky Rudd (note; irony alert)
So what happen now? (Thanks once again Mr. Weber) Lets look at a few different aspects of this question:
So Sadler now has his ‘#19’ back for the 2009 season. Or does he? The latest reports say that A.J. Allmendinger will now run the #10 car for the Bud Shootout and 8 ‘other’ races during the season. If GEM is smart (yes, we know that might be a stretch) this means that A.J. will have an ‘8 race showdown/shootout’ with Sadler and the best results may very well get the sponsor(s) for the remainder of the season. The loser goes home or simply becomes a figurehead and back-up driver for GEM . If I do the math right, this
would make the spring Texas race an interesting one.
Because of mergers and other team’s downsizing, the #10 team should be in the top 35 in owner points and like the 19, locked into the first handful of race. That being said, both GEM teams should be considered playing on a level playing field. Sadler has had the luxury for 5 or so years of not having to perform week in and week out in order to keep a ride. Now it very well could be that for eight weeks, he may have to.
Can he step up his game? I really don’t know. Will he give his best effort? Of course he will. But just what happens if things go south early on? One can be a ‘sponsor’s” dream all they want, but over time, even that can wear off with mediocre on track results every week. I don’t see Masterfoods knocking on the door lately, and even with their ‘bad boy’ driver. The appearances in victory lane, the Chase and running up front most weeks far out weigh another ‘TeVee face’ glad-handing his sponsors every interview.
The plus side is that Sadler has a history of coming out of the gates strong in most seasons.
Kevin Buskirk to the rescue!
I have always been a silent fan of Kevin and while he might be considered a ‘journeyman’ in the NASCAR ranks, wherever he has gone, the team he was with has seen success. He brings a lot of COT knowledge after heading up DEI’s testing program this past year and even has an insight to ‘Sadlereeze’ after being his crew chief for 9 races at the end of the 2005 season. Considering my ‘8 race theory’ above, this hire might be the most significant GEM decision in this have fiasco and one that might be the different maker.
While I am optimistic about Buskirk, he joins the long list of crew chiefs for Sadler and will most likely be blamed if the 19 car continues to run mid pack. It is really amazing the revisionist history many of the Sadler faithful present to the table when it comes to former crew chiefs. This blog has showed time and time again, that there is a common denominator that for years has gone unchanged. A dozen or so crew chiefs can’t always be wrong can they? Someday, maybe they can all get together for diner one night, and ‘exchange’ Sadler anecdotes, someone bring a camera, but better get a large table reserved first.
Putting on the tin foiled hat for a moment:
In my research of Buskirk, I stumbled across something that I had not connected before. Remember when Sadler finally came clean with Robert Yates and the NASCAR Nation that the ‘real’ reason he wanted out of the two years remaining on his contract had more to do with a ‘difference in team philosophy’ and the direction that the team was going? Well, that may have been the truth, but there is another striking ‘coincidence’ from that season. It seems the Buskirk left RYR in early April of the 2006 season to go to what became a successful stink with RCR. It was two weeks later when the first ‘report’ of Sadler wanting out of his contract from RYR surfaced. So was Burkirk the real missing link? Maybe, maybe not.
We have all heard the stories that Sadler ‘getting his ride back’ was not only ‘dollar/court’ driven, but sponsor driven as well. Even though they are not scientific, I have yet to see an Internet poll that supports Sadler getting his ride back, and most show an overwhelming favor toward A.J. From a sponsor’s standpoint, I wonder if this data is ever considered? I’ll leave that one up to Best Buy.