DARLINGTON, S.C. - Don't expect to find any stories about Elliott Sadler's first career pole on the walls at Robert Yates Racing. Those spaces are reserved for negative stories.
Sadler said he'll cut and clip all the articles he can find about winning the pole position for the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway, but he won't post them at his race shop.
"We use the bad stories for motivation," he said after winning his first pole in 146 career NASCAR Winston Cup Series starts. "We'll hang onto these good stories for later, but our guys are still motivated about all the bad things people have said about us."
Sadler's move from the Wood Brothers Racing team to Yates a year ago caused a stir because he told the Woods he wanted out at midseason; it essentially forced Yates' driver, Ricky Rudd, out of a job. Crew chief Michael "Fatback" McSwaim compounded the turmoil by quitting Sadler and Yates a couple months after the deal was announced.
"People have said things about us, that we're too young or this, that or the other," Sadler said. "We read those stories all winter. We read where I'm an underachiever and that I like to wreck a lot. Some people thought we'd be 25th or 30th in points. All of those are at our shop. We kept them all. That's our momentum."
Sadler ran two laps of practice. He posted the fastest lap of the session, then he parked his M&Ms Ford until time trials.
"We didn't touch one thing," he said. "We were very fast all day, and we didn't want to screw it up."
After running 170.147 mph in qualifying, Sadler and his new crew chief, Raymond Fox Jr., barricaded themselves inside their team hauler. They tried to pass the time by talking about setups for next week's race at Bristol, Tenn., and a week later at Fort Worth, Texas, but they kept an eye on the television monitor as other cars tried to beat his speed.
"I was a nervous wreck," Sadler said. "It was pretty exciting to wait through all those cars. It bit me at Texas last year. I sat on the pole all afternoon at Texas, and Bill (Elliott) knocked me off there at the end.
"This was real big because it was my first pole, the first pole for Raymond, the first pole for M&Ms and the first pole for our young team."
As soon as Ryan Newman's Dodge wiggled a little in the second turn, Sadler started feeling confident about his chances. Newman's lap of 169.374 mph was second quickest.
Jerry Nadeau was third at 169.170 mph, followed by Jimmy Spencer in fourth at 169.088, Jeff Gordon in fifth at 169.071, Kurt Busch in sixth at 168.984, Ward Burton in seventh at 168.926, Sterling Marlin in eighth at 168.816, Michael Waltrip in ninth at 168.769 and Todd Bodine in 10th at 168.764.
Sadler, whose only Winston Cup victory came at Bristol in 2001, knows the momentum gained by one fast lap Friday likely will be erased once the green flag waves Sunday (1 p.m., Fox-Ch. 54) for the main event.
"The prestige of the pole will go away on the first lap Sunday," he said. "Everything can change at Darlington in the first two laps."
A year ago Marlin won the race after starting 43rd.
With only 43 entries, every driver who brought a car to Darlington made the 43-car field.
Seven were forced to count their starting positions against their allotment of provisional exemptions: Rudd, Jeff Burton, Kyle Petty, Brett Bodine, Joe Nemechek, Tony Raines and Larry Foyt. They will start for the final seven positions after failing to make the field as one of the top 36 in speed.
PIT STOPS: Bobby Hamilton became the fourth driver in NASCAR history to win races on its three premier divisions - Craftsman Truck, Busch and Winston Cup series - with his late-race charge in Friday afternoon's Craftsman 200 at the Darlington Raceway. Hamilton joined Kevin Harvick, Terry Labonte and Mark Martin as the only drivers to win at least one race on the three circuits. Ted Musgrave finished second, followed by Brandon Gaughan in third, Travis Kvapil in fourth and Chad Chaffin in fifth.
Reach Don Coble at email@example.com.
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