Sadler still has something left in his tank

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Elliott Sadler does a great job shilling for his sponsors, and he’s a natural in front of cameras.

When his days as a NASCAR driver are over, the 13-year veteran probably is headed toward a healthy second career in television.

He just isn’t ready to hang up his helmet yet.

The future is uncertain for one of NASCAR’s most likable drivers. He’s in the midst of his sixth consecutive winless season, and his prospects of landing a solid ride in the Sprint Cup Series are fading with each week.

Richard Petty Motorsports last week said Stanley, which currently sponsors Sadler, would move to Marcos Ambrose’s car when he joins the organization next year, and the team has given no indication it’s planning to bring Sadler back in 2011.

So, when he pulled in last week to Bristol Motor Speedway, where he earned his first career Cup win in 2001, he couldn’t stave off the emotions that come with so much uncertainty.

“I told my wife, ‘This might be the last Bristol night race I ever race in,’” he recounted. “That’s hard to swallow.”

It may not be totally over for Sadler, though.

He’s shown new life outside of his Cup car, and has proved throughout the industry that he’s still got something left in his tank when given the right opportunity. It came from Kevin and DeLana Harvick, who offered Sadler some seat time in their truck and Nationwide Series rides.

Sadler won his first NASCAR race since 2004 when he drove a Kevin Harvick Inc.-owned truck to a win last month at Pocono, and in nine races between the two series, he has five top-10s and 132 laps led.

In Cup, Sadler only has one top-10 this entire season and a grand total of six of them over his last 60 starts.

But it’s not entirely Sadler’s fault. When he jumped from Yates Racing to Ray Evernham Motorsports midway through the 2006 season, he figured he was moving into the best opportunity of his career.

Instead, the team was sold to George Gillett Jr., and what was left of the original organization later merged with Richard Petty Motorsports. As funding dried up, the team tried to push Sadler out before the start of the 2009 season.

Sadler fought to keep his job, but it’s not exactly proven to be worth his while. He’s had six different crew chiefs since 2006 _ four of whom had never held the position before _ and has slogged along through financial uncertainty that seems to have affected to some degree everyone in the organization except Kasey Kahne.

And Kahne, so eager to move on himself, announced in April a deal to drive for Hendrick Motorsports two years from now. He didn’t even care that there was no plan for what he’d do next season when he decided to leave.

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