A dozen years later and Sadler is racing with Junior again. But this time Junior is his boss and Sadler is in a lower division.
Last year JR Motorsports announced that Sadler would drive for its team in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2016. Now Sadler is on Miami Beach taking part in Championship 4 media day prior to Saturday's Ford EcoBoos 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He is the only competitor in the field with experience in the Chase.
"Dale and I have got a great relationship," Sadler said. "He and I have known each other a long time. We raced against each other when we were teenagers and early 20s in the late models. We hung out a lot together in the late '90s. Thoroughly enjoyed each other's company. Now we feel like we've come full circle."
"He's just a really good friend of mine. I've leaned on him a lot the last two months to get myself ready for this run for the championship. I talked to him a lot after the race at Phoenix. He and I stayed on the phone almost the whole night and the next day just getting prepared, getting ready."
Sadler finished in 13th place in the Ticket Gallaxy 200 at Phoenix. After the race, Xfinity Series crew chief Kevin Meendering was fined $10,000 for improperly installed lug nuts. Meendering is also suspended from Sadler's crew as he competes in the Championship 4. Mike Bumgarner will take over for the No. 1 team.
"[Earnhardt] was at the shop first thing Monday morning to make sure we picked a good replacement to come crew chief the car, as well as being there in case we needed anything from him," Sadler said.
Sadler and Daniel Suarez each clinched spots in the Championship 4 in July when Kyle Busch won the Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The duo needed a new Chase-eligible driver not to win the race.
"So seeing [Earnhardt] being that much involved means a lot to me. I know he cares. He wants to see us do well. Of course, I want to do well for him and [JR Motorsports co-owner] Kelley [Earnhardt Miller], as well."
Racing for the title along with Suarez and Sadler will be Justin Allgaier and Erik Jones.
In September, Earnhardt made the decision to sit out for the rest of the 2016 season due to concussion-like symptoms. Alex Gordon and Jeff Gordon drove the No. 88 in his absence. Sadler said that the JR Motorsports team was racing for Junior. Sadler later won the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 in his honor.
The green flag drops at 3:30 p.m. for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship race.