After 12 full seasons as a Sprint Cup driver, Elliott Sadler made the unusual move of leaving Cup in 2011 to become a full-time Nationwide Series driver. He was the title runner-up the past two seasons.
Obviously, it worked out well, but it also made him a bit of a trendsetter.
After five years in Cup, Regan Smith is running full time for JR Motorsports this season in the Nationwide Series. Brian Vickers is back in the series full time for the first time since he won the title in 2003. Sam Hornish Jr. is racing his second consecutive full season in Nationwide after three full years in Cup.
"Maybe I set an example by coming back and competing for a championship," Sadler said during last week's NASCAR media tour in Charlotte, N.C. "Now we're seeing a lot of other guys doing it, like Sam, Regan and my teammate, Brian."
Sadler moved from Richard Childress Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing this season to run one of two full-time Nationwide cars for JGR. Vickers will drive the other one.
Sadler was asked who he thought was his biggest competition for the championship.
"Vickers is, by far," Sadler said.
Sadler didn't know Vickers was standing right behind him when he said it.
"Oh, never mind," Sadler said when he saw Vickers. "Scratch all that."
"Too late," Vickers said.
NASCAR made a rule change two years ago that a driver had to declare in which series he wanted to run for a championship. It was a move that eliminated full-time Cup drivers from winning the Nationwide title, which happened for five consecutive season before the rule was changed.
"When they first changed the rules, no one knew whether it was going to help the series or hurt the series," Sadler said. "But now that it's had time to marinate, it's clearly helped the series.
"It made it healthier. It made the Nationwide people happier to have their own drivers winning the title and their own brand. It's brought different sponsors and more sponsors in. It's a win-win. Everybody in NASCAR has to be happy with it."