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“It Does Still Hurt”- Elliott Sadler Reveals His Biggest Regret as Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Driver

Published 11/21/2023, 5:27 AM EST

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Motorsports is a cruel sport and Elliott Sadler is just one of the many that have fallen victim to it. Towards the end of his career, the 48-year-old used to drive in the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports. While he acknowledged the opportunity that Dale Earnhardt Jr had given him, one thing about his time at the still doesn’t sit well with the Virginia native.

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Despite having a long run with several teams in the NASCAR Cup Series, Elliott Sadler has a far better record in the Xfinity Series. He might have never won the championship but managed to earn the runners-up spot on four different occasions. His best season in the competition was in 2012 when he won four races and finished second in the championship with Richard Childress Racing.

Elliott Sadler reveals the cruel side of motorsports, recalling 2017 heartbreak


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Speaking on a recent episode of Kenny Conversation with Kenny Wallace, Sadler revealed the truth about his time at JR Motorsports. JRM is one of the most competitive teams in the competition thanks to their tie-up with Hendrick Motorsports. Driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr’s outfit was something that many drivers aim to do. 

So when Junior decided to give Sadler a chance to drive for the team, he was filled with gratitude. The 48-year-old must have known at the time that it was going to be one of his last teams in NASCAR. Going out on a competitive note is something every driver wants to do. But for the then driver of the 1, a massive regret remains.


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It does still hurt or affect me some today was, you know, Kelley and Dale Jr gave me a great opportunity to drive their race car. There were so many people in line who want to drive for JR Motorsports. Their ties to Hendrick, they’re fast every year. The public loves you cause of who you drive for. They gave me a great opportunity. What hurts, I couldn’t get him that championship,” Elliott Sadler revealed.

One of the most excruciating moments in the Virginia native’s motorsports career came at the end of the 2017 Xfinity Series seasons. Sadler was one of the championship drivers and with just five laps to go, he had passed his teammate William Byron for the lead of the race but then, chaos ensued and he lost his last golden opportunity to be a champion in NASCAR. And it was all because of Ryan Preece.

“I run down my teammate William Byron with 5 laps to go, I am gonna win the freaking championship. I have worked my whole life to be in this position to win a NASCAR championship. That would mean so much to my dad raced back in the 60s and 70s and my uncles. 5 laps to go, I passed my teammate, I’m leading him. 5 laps to go to win a freaking championship, and then I get raced and wrecked by Ryan Preece who’s not racing for anything. That cost me the championship and I’ll be honest with you, the next year, I couldn’t get over it,” he added.

Elliott Sadler’s NASCAR career has been filled with drama over the years. The Ryan Preece incident was just out of several. One of his biggest issues was with Jack Roush during his Cup Series days as he had lost over $1 million to the veteran team owner.


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Former Cup Series racer exposes Jack Roush’s ugly side

Speaking to Kenny Wallace about the time he made the switch from Wood Brothers Racing to Robert Yates Racing, Sadler revealed that his contract with the Woods was actually with Jack Roush. The 48-year-old was given assurances of being able to leave the team without any contractual drama but when the time came, things took a turn for the worse, costing Sadler dearly.

“I had to forfeit my winnings for the rest of the year in 2002, which was over a million dollars. You know how racing is, there is a small window. Sponsors, teams. You can’t wait around. We’re gonna move to the next guy. So I had to do all this stuff, pretty much forfeit my winnings for the rest of the year to have an opportunity to go and drive the #38 car. So that was my beef with Roush,” he explained.


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Elliott Sadler’s career in NASCAR has been full of struggles and he was never able to win a championship. Nonetheless, his stories are what gets him closer to the fans, who have a lot of respect for the 48-year-old.

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Written by:

Nilavro Ghosh


One take at a time

Drivers these days need to be more like Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace. Well, now you know who my favorites are. For me, it all began with my interest in F1, but I was just tired of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen showing unparalleled dominance.
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Edited by:

Joyita Das