Sadler has sights set on strong finish


TALLADEGA, Ala. -- While nearly everyone is watching the
10-man NASCAR Nextel Cup championship battle, Elliott Sadler is
chasing an 11th-place finish that would pay his team a $1 million
bonus and provide momentum for 2006.

Sadler got a leg up on the competition Friday by winning the
pole for the UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in the No. 38
Ford with a lap of 189.260 mph.

Sadler, who came up just 66 points short of making it into the
playoff-style Chase, is back up to 11th after
finishing sixth last Sunday in Dover, Del. But only 137 points separate
the Robert Yates Racing driver from teammate Dale Jarrett, 15th in
the standings.

In between are Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray and four-time
series champion and four-time Talladega winner Jeff Gordon.

"We're still frustrated not being in the top 10," Sadler said.
"I think we're a good enough team to be in the Chase, but we're
not going to hang our heads and cry about it. There's a lot of good
race teams out there.

"[Finishing 11th] is very important to us, but our No. 1 goal,
and it's going to start Sunday, is to get some wins," added
Sadler, whose last of three victories came last September at
California Speedway.

It was Sadler's fifth career pole and third of the season, but
his first since Kevin Buskirk became his crew chief in a shake-up
two weeks ago that also included Jarrett's team.

"Kevin's done a great job," Sadler said. "He's been the man
behind the scenes for the last two years. Everybody's been behind
him the last two weeks and things are going really well."

Harvick qualified second for Sunday's race at 189.032, but was
sent to the back of the 43-car field after his Richard Childress
Racing Chevrolet failed inspection. NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter
said a post-qualifying inspection found "several violations in the
trunk area of the car."

That moved Jarrett up to second at 188.776, followed by two of
the contenders for the title, Ryan Newman at 188.596 and Tony
Stewart at 188.570.

The rest of the championship contenders were spread throughout
the field, with Greg Biffle eighth, series leader Jimmie Johnson
ninth, Carl Edwards 10th, Matt Kenseth 11th, Kurt Busch 21st, Mark
Martin 24th and Jeremy Mayfield 32nd. Series runner-up Rusty
Wallace, who blew an engine before finishing his first qualifying
lap, will also start at the rear.

"We were sixth in practice and I really thought I had a
legitimate shot at the pole," Wallace said. "But, as soon as I
fired it up and pulled out, I knew I was in trouble. The engine
just welded itself shut."

While most drivers preach patience at Talladega, a track where
the field is usually bunched up in long freight trains, two- and
three-wide, Wallace said he will be aggressive.

Asked about strategy for Sunday, he said, "Get your car
handling really good, strike really quick and get it all up there.
Don't mess around and hang out in the middle of the pack. I'm going
to draft as hard as I can and try to get that thing up through

Gordon, who has won three of the last four races here, will
start 12th, while five-time Talladega winner and defending race
champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 20th.