The NASCAR XFINITY Series points leader heading into the second race of the season has a familiar face, if not exactly a familiar home.
After years of bouncing from team to team, Elliott Sadler hopes he's found the right landing place at JR Motorsports, reuniting with team principals Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt Miller in their No. 1 Chevrolet. After finishing fourth behind JRM team driver Chase Elliott in the series' opening round at Daytona last weekend, he enters Saturday's Heads Up Georgia 250 (1:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, PRN, SiriusXM) with a possible springboard into the rest of the 33-race schedule.
"Momentum is the main thing," Sadler said after last weekend's top-five effort at Daytona. "Look, guys, I'm in a great situation. A lot of people don't know the history of Dale Jr. and Kelley and myself. We've known each other since we were teenagers. For our relationship to come full circle and be at this race team, to see how much effort they have put into the program this winter. Showed today, three of the top four were JR Motorsports cars. I feel like we have some good stuff coming down the road."
Though his agreement with JRM was made public only last October, Elliott said he's already become enamored with the team's preparation. But it isn't the only factor that's won him over.
"I've been very impressed on the family atmosphere," Sadler said. "There's a lot of racers over there that do it for the fun of it, do it for the love of the sport. That seems to have impressed me the most so far."
Sadler's XFINITY tenure has had its own measure of success, but it's also required several suitcase changes. Since returning to the series full-time in 2011, Sadler has finished no worse than sixth in the final standings but his driving duties have spanned four employers in a five-year stretch -- Kevin Harvick Inc. (2011),Richard Childress Racing (2012), Joe Gibbs Racing (2013-14) andRoush Fenway Racing (2015).
Will his fifth team in six seasons be the change that takes root? Earnhardt hopes to provide some stability, both with JRM's technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsportsand with new crew chief Jeff Meendering.
"The last couple years have been a little challenging for him," Earnhardt said last weekend at Daytona. "I'm hoping that we give him a great foundation and a lot of support to be able to be competitive this year, get back to Victory Lane. We got a great crew chief working with him, as well. Our crew chief lineup is very strong. That's going to carry our team, our whole company this year.
"You always think about trying to get the best driver you can in the seat, but, boy, I've learned over the last five years how important that crew chief is. We've got, I think, the best guys in the garage on all three cars."
While Daytona results typically have no direct correlation to rest-of-the-season performance, Sadler said he's already impressed despite the small sample size of time together with JRM.
"That always feels good," Sadler said. "These guys have put a lot of effort in my race cars, and I think it showed all weekend how good all of our cars were. And I think we'll have something when we get to Atlanta also."