Sadler looking for work

Published 11:05 pm Friday, January 2, 2009

Elliott Sadler had hoped to jumpstart his career when midway through the 2006 Sprint Cup season he switched from Robert Yates Racing to Evernham Motorsports.

With the exception of a handful of competitive efforts on the superspeedways at Daytona and Talladega, he performed below expectations. He flirted with success early, finishing in the top 10 in his first start with Evernham, but had only 11 top-10 finishes in the past 85 starts.

While teammate Kasey Kahne shook off a yearlong slump with two victories (Charlotte and Pocono) this past season, Sadler again was mired in the middle of the pack. Predictably, he finished 20th in points after a 28th-place showing in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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Sadler, who has three career Cup victories in 357 starts, had expected better.

“We gave it all we had,” Sadler said of his performance at Homestead-Miami. “I’m proud to have worked with this No. 19 team this season.”

GEM spokesmen declined Monday to confirm reports by and of Sadler’s ouster. They acknowledged, however, that the team had had talks with A.J. Allmendinger, who reportedly was offered the No. 19 Dodge early last week.

“Until something is hammered out, we can’t really comment,” said GEM spokesman Ryan Barry. “Obviously, there are a lot of variables.”

In a twist of fate for Sadler, he’ll relinquish his wheels to a driver whom he referred to as “whatever his name is” during the Sprint All-Star event at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in May.

Allmendinger may not be a household name, but the former open-wheel star has gone from the unemployment line to the starting grid of the 2009 season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 15.

Allmendinger replaced another former open-wheel driver, Patrick Carpentier, at GEM during the final five 2008 Cup events. He wasn’t spectacular but steady, with an average finish of 16.4 during that span. Sadler, who last won a Cup race Sept. 5, 2004, had an average finish of 31.8 during the second half of the 10-race Chase for the Cup.

Allmendinger, a five-time winner in the Champ Car Series, became a Cup journeyman this past season. He drove for three different teams ­­— Red Bull Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and GEM. He was released in September by Red Bull, in part, because he underachieved.

Yet, unlike Sadler, he seemingly overachieved at GEM. Thus, an inconsistent Sadler became expendable.

Sadler signed a multi-year contract extension with GEM in May, but budget cuts and layoffs have forced the organization to alter its plans. While major sponsors of the No. 19 haven’t yet bailed, GEM continues to seek sponsorship support amid a gloomy financial climate for most NASCAR teams.

GEM announced earlier this month that it would scale back its Nationwide Series program next season by laying off 65 employees and having the No. 9 Dodge run a limited schedule. The organization continues to field three Sprint Cup Series teams — Allmendinger, Kahne and Reed Sorenson.