DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Just over a month ago it appeared that Elliott Sadler was losing his ride and AJ Allmendinger was taking his place in the No. 19 Dodges.
Instead, they became unlikely teammates at what is now called Richard Petty Motorsports. And Sunday they shared a stage in the media center at Daytona International Speedway and celebrated their top-five finishes in the rain-shortened Daytona 500.
Had the rain been heavier and the race called a little earlier, Sadler might have been the winner.
"I was getting pretty emotional under the caution when it was raining a little bit in turns 1 and 2," Sadler said. "I was getting emotional in the car thinking, 'Wouldn't this be the coolest story?'
"I really wanted to go to Victory Lane with my guys. I needed this after the offseason that I've had - really would have been cool."
In January, Sadler was on the verge of losing his ride when it appeared RPM wanted to put Allmendinger in its No. 19 Dodges. Sadler threatened legal action and a week later, he was reinstated and Allmendinger relegated to an eight-race deal.
Even without a Sadler victory, Sunday's outcome provided a much-needed boost for both Sadler, who finished fifth, and Allmendinger, who finished a career-best third. Teammate Reed Sorenson finished ninth.
"I was hoping it was going to rain when Elliott was leading and Reed was second and I was fourth," Allmendinger said. "That would have been a really great result for the team.
"I kind of wish we could have finished (the race). I think my car was fast.
"To be top-three with everything we went through in the offseason, hopefully, (we can) get some more sponsors on the race car (and) keep this thing going after race eight."
Allmendinger had already survived one scare just to get into the race. His team had no owner points and he had to race his way into the field in the second of Thursday's qualifying races.
"I think this shows how strong this team is now," he said. "Elliott and Reed were a big factor of why I got into this race. That was a lot of teamwork involved to get that to happen.
"I just wish it would have rained a little bit earlier so we could have had a Cinderella story."