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Elliott Sadler’s disappointing end to 2017 drives him forward

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For Elliott Sadler, “there’s nothing to say” about how his 2017 Xfinity season ended.

He had no interest in addressing how he was raced in the late stages at Homestead-Miami Speedway by Ryan Preece, and how it resulted in his No. 1 Chevrolet damaged and Sadler unable to win his first NASCAR championship.

The accident with 10 laps to go in the championship race came as Sadler tried to hold off his JR Motorsports teammate, William Byron. Whoever led the other at the checkered flag would be the champion.

Byron went on to to win. Sadler finished with his second runner-up finish in the Xfinity standings.

On that November night, Sadler called it the “most devastating and down and out” he’d ever felt in his NASCAR career, which began in 1995 in the Xfinity Series.

But two months later, there’s nothing to say.

On second thought...

“When you catch somebody like that, we had just made the pass on William and we’re pulling away and we’re less than 10 laps to go and you’re absolutely racing for nothing at all,” Sadler said last week during the NASCAR Media Tour. “Your owner’s championship guy is half a mile, half a lap ahead of you, (Team Penske’s) Sam Hornish (Jr.). Why not give the respect? The respect is due. We had earned that right I had felt like and I thought. That’s why it hurts so bad.”

It’s why the 42-year-old driver for JR Motorsports engaged in a shouting match with Preece on pit road after the race

It’s also why Sadler keeps coming back for more.

“I’ve been asked that question a few times this offseason. It’s motivation,” Sadler said.

A 17-time winner in NASCAR’s three national series, Sadler had his future on his mind two weeks ago when he visited with Dale Jarrett after the Hall of Fame induction.

Sadler asked his former Robert Yates Racing teammate and mentor when he knew it was time to retire.

“What kept you going when you were in the middle of it and what told you maybe it was time to step away?” Sadler asked.

“The biggest thing he and I kind of came to the conclusion of is, I’m still motivated every day. I still like going to the gym, I still like working out. I still like watching film of races. I still like studying what’s going on. That’s still in my mind.”

After 820 NASCAR starts, the sport still makes Sadler mad.

“I take it personal when stuff goes my way or doesn’t go my way,” Sadler said. “I still feel that. I don’t brush it off. Just like what happened after Homestead. That to me is telling me I still want to do it. I still have the drive. When I get to the day where I’m, (sighs) ‘We got to go where this weekend?’ You know what I’m saying to that extent, it’s time for me to do something else. Right now, I don’t have that.”

But Jarrett, who retired from NASCAR racing in 2008, told him he would know when his time was up.

“You will (know) when you’re ready to go to Daytona or you’re like, ‘I got to go to Daytona this weekend,’” Sadler said. “There’s a big difference in mindset. But right now when hunting season is over with and I know I’ve got six weeks to really get mentally and physically tough and ready for the season, was I going to feel like doing it or not? So far, yes.”

Once the season begins on Feb. 17 in Daytona, Sadler can look forward to at least 10 races where he’ll get a chance to compete against Preece. The 27-year-old driver will race part-time with JGR.

“He better not get anywhere near me,” Sadler let reporters know.

“That’s all I want to say.”

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