CONCORD, N.C. - Lowe's Motor Speedway has been a safe harbor in a season that has been otherwise disappointing for Elliott Sadler.
Sadler, mired in 28th place in NASCAR's Sprint Cup standings, won the pole Friday for Saturday night's Sprint Showdown at the track with a speed of 185.014 mph. He's joined on the front row by Brian Vickers (184.786).
The top two finishers in the Showdown will qualify for the Sprint All-Star Race later in the night, as will a third driver who will be voted in by fans.
Don't bet against Sadler, who despite his struggles elsewhere on the circuit had the fastest times at a two-day testing session at Lowe's earlier this month.
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"This is a real milestone for us to come here and be competitive on a mile-and-a-half track," said Sadler of his No. 19 Dodge team. "We've made some huge progress (at Lowe's), confidence-wise and speed-wise."
Sadler's best finish this season was a sixth in the Daytona 500. He might have bottomed out last week at Darlington, when he wrecked with Tony Stewart on Lap 2 and finished 42nd.
History suggests Sadler has a good chance at making the all-star race Saturday night. Five pole winners have won the qualifying race.
He's got another reason to be confident. His buddy Dale Earnhardt Jr. has asked his legions of fans to vote Sadler into the all-star race if he doesn't finish in the top two.
"But I definitely want to race our way in," Sadler said.