Veteran driver has been second in points the last two years. Can a new team change the slump?
CONCORD, N.C. -- Elliott Sadler believes he can win the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship in 2013, and not just because the guy who won the last two titles is no longer in the series.
It's because he's with a Joe Gibbs Racing team that has a strong Nationwide record as well as one that boasts capable, talented teammates.
And it's because Sadler, 37, has finished second the last two years and, quite frankly, he's had enough of being the guy who almost won the title.
The JGR organization has "shown in the past the success they can have in the Nationwide Series," Sadler said Jan. 22 during a late-evening stop on the annual Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. "I really feel like our two teams, myself and Brian (Vickers), are going to be the two cars to beat. I think everybody else knows that, too."
Sadler and Vickers are part of a retooled effort for JGR, although Vickers made one start for the team last year.
Sadler will pilot the No. 11 One Main Financial Toyota, driven last year by Brian Scott. Vickers will slide into the team's No. 20 entry, one of two entries split among several drivers last season. The team's No. 18 will likely see several drivers behind the wheel.
Chris Gayle, senior team engineer for the No. 18 Sprint Cup team with driver Kyle Busch, has been named crew chief for Sadler's team.
While his team has been busy building cars, Sadler said he has been able to spend time with his family and enjoy the brief offseason. He has been on the track, testing one of the team's Cup cars Jan. 23.
"They've just been building cars and getting ready for the upcoming season," Sadler said of his Nationwide effort. "This time of the year, it's all about getting your cars built and ready.
"That's what I told Chris -- if we need to be in the shop working on cars, let's be in the shop. Let's don't miss days in the shop just to go test. I've been in a car enough in my career to know what I need to do when I get in a race car."
After hitting a difficult stretch of seasons as a Cup driver, Sadler spent 2011 competing in Nationwide for Kevin Harvick Inc. While he failed to win, he did score 12 top-fives and 24 top-10 finishes and placed second in points behind champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The KHI effort was absorbed by Richard Childress Racing prior to 2012, and Sadler responded with four victories and another second-place points finish, once again trailing Stenhouse Jr., while at RCR.
At JGR, Joey Logano won nine times in just 22 starts last year for the organization. In all, JGR drivers have won 77 races in the series, as well as the 2009 driver's title with Kyle Busch.
"They're tough to beat," Sadler, a nine-time Nationwide winner, said of JGR. "I really like what I see over there. I know we'll have some stiff competition, but I feel good about Brian and myself as teammates. And I feel good about what we have to offer.
"I think we'll be in good shape."