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From hospital to Homestead: Elliott Sadler’s mom making championship journey

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Elliott Sadler didn’t have to leave mom behind this time.

In September, Sadler had a hard time leaving Bell Sadler’s hospital room in order to travel to Kentucky Speedway for the first race in the Xfinity Series inaugural Chase. After being reassured she would be OK and to focus on the playoffs, Sadler went out and won the Chase opener.

Having made it to the final round, Sadler will compete for his first NASCAR title in today’s Ford EcoBoost 300. Even better, Bell will be on hand.

“My mom and dad are coming down,” Sadler said during Championship 4 Media Day. “They’re looking forward to this opportunity. They’re coming to hopefully share a good moment. But to see her travel and be here is definitely going to give me some inspiration on Saturday.”

Bell will travel with her doctor, Sadler’s best friend, in case something should happen. There will be plenty of other friends and family making the journey as well.

But Sadler’s mother is “definitely at the top of the list.”

Sadler has always been close to his family, particularly his mother. When his son, Wyatt, was born in 2010 and had to have surgery, it was Bell who Elliott leaned on.

A breast cancer survivor, Bell was rushed to the hospital a week before the Kentucky race following complications from gallbladder surgery. Sadler said she also has some septic issues. The mental toughness Bell has shown through everything she’s experienced has left Sadler developing a strength of his own behind the wheel.

“She has been in the hospital now for a couple of weeks and got her energy back up and her strength back up,” Sadler said. “She was fired up this week. She wanted me to stay focused and make sure I had my head on straight when I came to Miami.

“She came by to visit me to send me off on my way before I came down (here). She’s back to her old ways. She wants her son to be focused. That’s her text message I get before every race: Stay focused. That was the word I got (Wednesday) before I left. So she’s back to her old self.”

Sadler would become the fifth oldest Xfinity Series champion in history (41 years, 6 months, 20 days) should he win the title, something that would mean the world to the NASCAR veteran.

“The title will mean a lot,” Sadler said. “I have been through a lot of ups and downs. Lucky to be here. Went through a time in my career I could have easily got pushed to the side and never been able to race again. To kind of battle back, put ourselves in this position again means a lot to me and my family. We want to go make the most of it.”

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NASCAR America: Matt DiBenedetto on Indy success with small team

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Matt DiBenedetto has just three top-10 finishes in his three years of competing in the NASCAR Cup Series. But two of them have come this year in two of the biggest races in the sport.

DiBenedetto, who drives the No. 32 Ford for Go Fas Racing, finished ninth in the Daytona 500 in February and eighth in Sunday’s Brickyard 400.

DiBenedetto, who was also celebrating his 26th birthday, joined NASCAR America to discuss his run at Indy and what is considered a successful race for his team, which has 15 crew members.

“You’ve got to keep it in the perception of your versions of wins are a little bit different than everybody else’s version,” DiBenedetto said. “We look at it as who we’re racing around. I would say on a regular week where there’s not a ton of chaos like Indy was, a top 20 is a really good day. A top 25 is if we just do our job.”

Watch the video for the full segment.

Chase Elliott, AJ Allmendinger unveil Darlington throwback schemes

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Both Chase Elliott and AJ Allmendinger have revealed the paint schemes they’ll drive in the Sept. 3 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Elliott will use his No. 24 Chevrolet to pay tribute to the car his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, drove in his first Cup start.

The light blue look was on his No. 9 car when he started in the Feb. 29, 1976 race at Rockingham Speedway.

The car was revealed on Facebook in the below video.

AJ Allmendinger will pay tribute to two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte with his No. 47 Chevrolet.

The car will resemble the No. 44 Piedmont Airlines Oldsmobile that Labonte drove in during the 198 Cup season when he competed for owner Billy Hagan.

NASCAR America: Felix Sabates: ‘I’m lucky to be here’ after near-death experience from illness last year

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For nearly a month last year Felix Sabates was at death’s door.

The fears were so great that Sabates might not wake up from a coma he spent 29 days in, Chip Ganassi bought a blue suit for the possibility he might have to attend his co-owner’s funeral.

But the 71-year-old made a full recovery through a rehab process that included learning to walk again.

NASCAR America’s Kyle Petty and Sabates have a special relationship. Petty drove the No. 42 car for Sabates’ SABCO Racing for eight years in the 1980s and 1990s, winning six of his eight Cup races for the millionaire owner from Cuba.

Sabates sat down with Petty to discuss the ordeal, which began in January 2016 when Sabates began feeling ill during the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I came home and woke up the next morning and I (couldn’t) breath,” said Sabates, who drove himself to the hospital. “The minute they saw me I was in intensive care.”

Sabates was in the hospital for two and half weeks before he was released, but Sabates “should’ve know I wasn’t cured.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner returned to his usual grind until it caught up to him in August.

“My blood pressure was through the roof, my oxygen level was 55, which you should be dead then,” recalled Sabates, who has no memory of a three-month stretch. “They thought was I was brain-dead. They were pretty much going to disconnect me. So 4 o’clock in the morning, they took my tubes out.”

That’s when Sabates began the process of waking up.

“I’m lucky to be here,” said Sabates, who aside from being back at the track is also back to playing golf.

“I used to worry about little things,’ Sabates said. “Now I don’t even worry about big things.”

The full feature will air Sunday on Countdown to Green, which begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN before the Cup race at Pocono.

NASCAR America: Ryan Blaney glad Team Penske news is finally out in the open

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On Wednesday it was finally announced that Ryan Blaney would move from Wood Brothers Racing to Team Penske full-time next year in the Cup Series in the No. 12 Ford while Paul Menard will take over the No. 21 Ford.

NASCAR America’s Dave Burns caught up with Blaney on Thursday. Blaney was happy that his 2018 plans were finally public knowledge.

Blaney also acknowledged how a technical alliance between the two teams helped Wood Brothers Racing return to a competition level that allowed Blaney to get his first Cup win this season earlier this year.

“That was a big deal,” Blaney said. “That was getting us to where we could run a full-time season. That was really helpful not only to me but to (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins, will be coming with me to the 12 car.”

Blaney has been driving for Team Penske part-time in the Xfinity Series since 2012.

“It’s been nice to get the news and tell everybody finally about what we’re doing,” Blaney said. “But mainly we’re trying to finish this year out strong with the Wood Brothers, getting their 100th win, that’s really big. That’s on my bucket list for this year and getting as far as we can in the playoffs.”

The No. 21 team returns to Pocono Raceway this weekend, the site of Blaney’s first Cup win last month.

Watch the video for the full interview.