Barely an hour after announcing a deal that will put him in one of Kevin Harvick's Nationwide Series cars next year, Sadler blew away the field in qualifying for Sunday's Sprint Cup race in Texas. He zipped around the high-banked 1 1/2-mile track in 195.397 mph, nearly 2 mph better than front-row partner Greg Biffle.
Facing an uncertain future in NASCAR's top series, Sadler took his first pole since the spring 2006 race at Talladega. His last win was Sept. 5, 2004, in California. The eighth pole of Sadler's career was less than a mph off the track's four-year-old qualifying record.
"It's been a good day to be an Elliott Sadler kind of guy," said the driver of the No. 19 Ford.
Richard Petty Motorsports is switching Stanley, the primary sponsor on Sadler's car, to Marcos Ambrose next year, leaving Sadler without a Sprint Cup ride at the moment. If Friday's qualifying run was an advertisement, it was a good one.
"I don't know if they're that fast because they've got that mentality, racing for food, or what's going on," said Carl Edwards, who completed a Ford sweep of the top three spots by qualifying on the inside of the second row. "But I think it proves how good they can be."
Maybe Sadler knew good things were in store for the weekend. After qualifying on the front row Thursday night for the Trucks race, Sadler pointed wistfully at a picture in the media center of him edging Kasey Kahne at the finish of the Sprint Cup race in Texas six years ago -- one of three career wins. He went to dinner later with his wife, and broke open a fortune cookie that read, "You are about to embark on a most delightful journey."
"I didn't sleep at all last night," Sadler said. "I was excited about a lot of things that were going to happen today."
He knew about the Harvick deal because it was completed Thursday night. Sadler will drive a Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc. in 29 Nationwide races next season, with Harvick taking the wheel for one race in a multiyear deal with CitiFinancial.
The 35-year-old Sadler made his NASCAR debut in the Nationwide Series 15 years ago and won a Camping World Trucks series race for Harvick at Pocono in July. He also won a pole and finished third for Harvick's team in a Nationwide race at Bristol in August.
"I saw that picture on the wall and said, 'You know what. We can do this,"' Sadler said.
Points leader Jimmie Johnson qualified 17th for the race Sunday. He's locked in a tight battle for the championship with Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. Harvick is 26th on the starting grid, and Hamlin 30th.