Jul 18, 2014, 6:40 PM EDT
JOLIET, Illinois – In a twist of fate, Elliott Sadler will go head-to-head for the first time in his career against one of his best friends, country music superstar Blake Shelton on Saturday night.
Shelton will be performing at Chicago’s fabled Wrigley Field that evening, while at the same time about 50 miles southwest, Sadler will be racing in the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.
“I need to look at my schedule better,” Sadler said Friday prior to the first NNS practice at Chicagoland. “When I found out Blake was playing at Wrigley Field, and he’s so excited to play there tomorrow night … I called him and said, ‘Ok, Blake, this is the plan: We’re going to come to Wrigley Field Saturday night, come see the concert, you stay over Sunday and come to the race, have a good time and all that.
“And then I looked at my schedule and we race at the same time you (play). Can you set back your starting time? We can’t because we’re on TV.”
Unfortunately, Shelton’s concert also precludes starting later, and it’d be virtually impossible for Sadler to catch a helicopter ride from CLS to Wrigley.
“It’s funny for us to be this close to each other,” Sadler said of Shelton. “He said he’ll be watching the race in the truck on TV before he goes on stage. We’ll catch each other another time.”
But if Sadler earns his second win of the NNS season Saturday night, Blake’s post-concert party will also turn into a Sadler victory party, as well.
“If we make it to victory lane, he said he’ll hold up the party somehow, some way until we get there,” Sadler said with a laugh.
Sadler is currently second in the NNS standings, a place where he’s been for eight of the last nine races (the other time, he was leading the points).
He has one win (Talladega), five top-5 and 12 top-10 finishes in the first 17 races, and hopes this is the year he finally wins that elusive Nationwide championship.
It would be especially sweeter for Sadler given that Nationwide Insurance is leaving as series sponsor at the end of this season.
Saturday’s race is very important for Sadler. Although he won at Chicagoland in 2012, he very easily could have had two more wins had it not been for late-race failures.
“We won here two years ago, were leading three years ago and we had a flat tire with five laps to go, and last year I was leading with four laps to go and bottomed out with the splitter,” Sadler said.
This will be Sadler’s 10th career NNS start at Chicagoland. In addition to the win, he has a fourth-place finish in this race last year, was eighth in the 2012 fall race and sixth in the 2011 fall race, as well.
All told, he has one win, two top-5 and four top-10 finishes at Chicagoland.
A close second to his hopes of winning again in the shadow of the Windy City is the opportunity to earn $100,000 in the Nationwide Dash-4-Cash promotion.
“I think any time you go for $100,000, it’s a lot of fun,” Sadler said. “That’s a lot of money that Nationwide Insurance puts on the line for us.
“There’s always a lot of excitement around that. It’s a fun stretch, these five races here and a lot of money up for grabs.
“To come here for probably one of our best tracks and to race for $100,000, it’s an exciting weekend.”
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