|Virginia driver Elliott Sadler is in the middle of what might be his best season as a driver yet.|
Well that was then.
At the time, Sadler was at Richmond International Raceway preparing for the Virginia529 College Savings 250 - the second-to-last race of the regular season. The Emporia, VA native sat atop the XFINITY Series standings in the midst of a season that will go down as one of his best.
"I'd rather win at (Richmond) than anywhere else in the country," Sadler said of his hometown track. "I've got a lot of family and friends that come here for this race - it's really racing at home. Racing in our backyard puts so much emotion into it, it's a bucket list item for me."
Although his fourth place finish in the Virginia529 College Savings 250 meant that elusive Action Track win would stay on that list at least a little longer, the JR Motorsports driver finds himself poised to check off an even bigger item.
With just four races left on the XFINITY Series schedule, Sadler still sits atop the field as we move into the Round of 8 for the inaugural Chase for the XFINITY Championship.
"We've had a dream season. I can't tell you how proud I am of Kelley (Earnhardt-Miller) and Dale Junior, the equipment they've given us, along with my crew chief Kevin (Meendering) and his guys," Sadler said. "We've just been bringing fast cars to the race track week in and week out. We've been very consistent, we're in the top-10 each and every week."
Through 29 races he's finished sixth or better 18 times, posted three wins, and, aside from a mishap back at Charlotte in May, he's finished on the lead lap every race. Had the XFINITY Series not adopted the successful Chase format like its counterpart Cup Series, the Virginia driver might've been a virtual lock for the 2016 XFINITY Series Championship.
As it turns out, he's more than capable of rolling with the change, too.
Sadler kicked off his postseason run in historic fashion, winning the first ever NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase race in Kentucky. The regular season points leader then followed up his win with a seventh place finish at Dover and a second place showing at Charlotte.
|The JR Motorsports driver has posted an average finish of 6.9 this season - the best of his career.|
In his first season with JR Motorsports, Sadler enters the Round of 8 looking to extend his streak of 14-straight top-10's en route to a Championship showdown in Homestead-Miami. And while he claims it's his best season to date, whats even more important for the NASCAR vet is he's having the time of his life.
"I like showing up to the race track every week knowing you have the chance to win, and I like appreciating the hard work that's going on around me," Sadler said. "I am in the best situation I've been in in a long time, I'm having more fun than I've had in a long time...I can't see myself doing anything different."
Nor should he. As long as Sadler keeps doing what he's doing, there's a good chance he'll be bringing an XFINITY Series Championship to the Commonwealth.