Elliott Sadler did as he was told by his mother.
He left her in the hospital to race last week.
“I cried about half the way home just because you’re not supposed to leave your mom in that kind of situation,’’ he told NBC Sports.
As she approached her sixth night in the hospital after complications from a recent surgery, Bell told her son she would be fine and that he needed to go to Kentucky Speedway to race.
Forty-hours later, he received a text message while celebrating his second Xfinity Series victory in the last four races.
“I’m awake. Call me.’’
It was his mom. She had watched him win the series’ inaugural Chase race.
Sadler heads into Saturday’s race at Dover International Speedway (on NBCSN) with no pressure after the Kentucky win vaulted him into the second round of the Chase.
Also gone is the angst he experienced a week ago when his mother was admitted to the hospital. She’s recovering at home, he said.
His emotions changed after his third-place finish Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway. His mother had been rushed to the hospital and was in the intensive care unit.
“Had been on cloud nine,’’ Sadler said. “Had a great day at Chicago, had a chance to win, finish third. (Meanwhile) my mom is having complications from something that happened a couple of weeks ago with her gallbladder.’’
Sadler, his brother Hermie and other family members stayed with Bell at the hospital in the following days. Sadler and Hermie rotated shifts with their mom, neither getting much sleep, “worried about her, watching her fight and suffering,’’ Sadler said.
But the family knows to listen to mom, who is a cancer survivor. So when she assured Sadler she would be OK and he should leave, he did.
The Kentucky victory moved him one step closer toward his first NASCAR championship. He’ll need to advance through the second round to have a chance for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Sadler admits he’s thought of winning the Xfinity title and what it would mean. He thinks about the sacrifices his family made and what racing means to his family.
“When I was younger you don’t realize all the time that your parents sacrificed to help you pursue your dreams,’’ Sadler said.
“Now that I’ve gotten older and got kids … I’ve kind of realized that my mom and dad did sacrifice a lot. I’m talking about cutting down on trips, spending a bunch of money, making sacrifices, working extra hard to make sure that when we raced go-karts, we had good equipment, and when we raced Late Models we had the best equipment.’’
Racing always has been a part of the Sadler family. The family used to gather at granny’s house on Sundays to compare how each did racing that weekend and watch the NASCAR race. His dad has cars that raced. His uncles raced. Sadler and Hermie raced. So did four cousins.
“Back then the Cup race started early, so it was like as soon as you got home from church, you sat down for a big dinner, big lunch and you started talking about your race weekend as you watched the Cup race,’’ Sadler said. “So it’s always been a family-involved sport for us. That’s why the first thing that comes to my mind that if we’re fortunate enough to hold the trophy up at Homestead, is (his parents) being there with me.’’