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Bristol showcases second-chance success stories
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Everyone deserves another chance at some point, even a NASCAR driver who has wrecked everyone in his way, or let his temper derail his career, or lost both his confidence and competitive edge.
The Harvicks believed Sadler still had something in his tank, and took a gamble on him with one of their stout Nationwide Series cars. For the first time in years, Sadler had competitive equipment and a chance to run up front and race for the championship.
OK, so he went winless and fell short in the title race. But he showed enough that Richard Childress kept him this season after buying out the Harvicks’ Nationwide program.
Before this month, it had been 14 years since Sadler last won in the Nationwide Series. His last Sprint Cup Series win was in 2004. His parents, who were present Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, had never before been on site for one of his NASCAR victories.
“When you have an owner, Richard, who when he talks to you, believes in you as a person, believes in you as a driver, it makes all the difference in the world,” Sadler said. “For my self-confidence and what I can do as a driver, when you have people around you that believe in your talent, or believe in what you can do in a race car, it makes you feel like a different person.
“Compared to what I was going through three or four years ago to now, I am a totally different person mentally and physically, especially in the race car.”
Michael Waltrip Racing announced on March 3 that Sadler would run six of the Cup races Mark Martin doesn’t have on his schedule, but the deal blew up hours later after Sadler won the Nationwide race at Phoenix. That victory, his first in the series since 1998, apparently made RCR and Chevrolet balk at the idea of Sadler driving a Toyota for another team.
So MWR turned to Vickers, who has been unable to find a ride since Red Bull Racing closed at the end of last season.
Vickers‘ predicament is a combination of both a down economy and his own actions coming back to bite him. He closed last year with a horrendous final month on the track, starting at Martinsville, where he was involved in five cautions and initially accepted no responsibility for any of the accidents.
The final caution was a deliberate wrecking of Matt Kenseth, who was second in the championship standings at the time, and it brought out a yellow that affected the final outcome of the race. Two weeks later, he wrecked Kenseth again at Phoenix.
In a strong economy, maybe those skirmishes wouldn’t have mattered. But the bad press could not have been ignored by sponsors considering working with Vickers. Plus, he had spent five years living a “Red Bull lifestyle” that doesn’t fit with everyone’s marketing model.
Back at the track last weekend for his first race of the season, the Vickers who met with the media Friday morning was a humbled man. He distanced himself from a notorious 2011 profile in Maxim magazine _ it depicted Vickers as a hard-partying playboy with a tremendous ego _ and emphasized his focus was on a strong run at Bristol and getting back into a full-time ride.
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