NASCAR Kansas 2013: Elliott Sadler excited at chance to be back in Cup

Jamie Squire

Driving a fourth car for Joe Gibbs Racing, Sadler makes his return to the Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Kansas.

A familiar face will be in Sunday's STP 400 at Kansas Speedway. But it's a face that hasn't competed in a Sprint Cup race in over a year, as Elliott Sadler will make his return to NASCAR's top series.

Sadler is regularly a full-time driver in the Nationwide Series for Joe Gibbs Racing, but with NASCAR's No. 2 series off this weekend, he is instead at Kansas behind the wheel of a fourth JGR Toyota.

It marks his first Cup race since the 2012 Daytona 500.

"It's neat, it's fun," Sadler said Friday at Kansas. "I feel like a kid in a candy store all over again. Almost like the first day of high school. It's been a great feeling this week getting ready and getting prepared to come here to Kansas this weekend."

This will be the first of three Cup races he will run for the team this year in an effort sponsored by Alert Energy Gum, with his other two events coming at Talladega in May and October.

From 1998-2010, Sadler started 429 Cup races with a variety of teams and varying levels of success. In that time, he amassed three wins and made the Chase in 2004.

But after losing his ride at the end of the '10 season, Sadler's options were limited: Either sign with a Cup backmarker or return to Nationwide and attempt to rebuild his career. He chose the latter, and it proved to be the right decision with four combined wins and consecutive runner-up point finishes.

And when JGR needed a driver for a part-time Cup effort this season, it made sense to tab Sadler.

"It means a lot to me personally for them to give me this opportunity where they can evaluate me in their equipment and we'll just take it from there," he said. "I understand the opportunity that's being placed in front of me and we want to make the most of it, take advantage of it and see where this road leads us."

What Sadler is hoping for is to land back in Cup full-time with an eye towards returning in 2014. For now, though, his attention is focused solely on the present.

Unlike some drivers in one-off rides, Sadler isn't tempering his expectations. With an organization that has won three Cup races this year between its three full-time teams, the veteran is aiming high.

"We are coming to throw caution to the wind and hopefully can use some pit strategy and take some chances and maybe do some things that some other teams can't do," Sadler said. "Let's try to lead some laps and win the race.

"We really feel like honestly that we can come here and be very, very competitive for these three races."

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