It turned out that Elliott Sadler lost Sunday's Daytona 500 by a half lap when rain fell seconds after Matt Kenseth made the pass that ultimately handed him victory, but the Richard Petty Motorsport driver has put last weekend in his rear-view mirror and is now focusing on the future, starting in Fontana.
His top-five finish, coupled with bonus points he received for the 24 laps he led, leave Sadler tied with Clint Bowyer for fourth in the early Sprint Cup Series standings - and in good position to start his season-long quest for a first championship.
This weekend, Sadler climbs into the #19 Best Buy Dodge for round two of the series on the two-mile California Speedway oval, and will be looking to spearhead a reprise of RPM's strong showing in Florida.
“The end of the Daytona 500 was a tough one to swallow, but I can honestly say that now it's time to focus on the positive," he stressed, "I had a top-five finish, led more laps in one race than I did in all of 2008 and I'm in a great position to start the season.
“Before I got to Daytona, I sat down and came up with my goals for the 2009 season - to lead laps, win races, qualify for the Chase and win the Sprint Cup championship. I think I have a team that can do all of those things.
"Last week, we led laps and we were in position to win the race - we came up a bit short, but still finished in the top-five. We are tied for fourth in points, and on track after the first race of the season to accomplish those goals.
“Don't get me wrong, I know it's a long season and it's not going to get any easier. We drive each week with the best drivers in our sport. No one is going to roll over for you and let you win, but this season I am out to prove that I'm a damn good race car driver who can compete with the best of them."
Despite Sadler and Reed Sorensen looking best placed to give RPM at least a podium spot at Daytona, it was AJ Allmendinger - who they had helped qualify for the blue riband event - who stole the thunder by finishing third behind Kenseth and Kevin Harvick. Despite that, however, Sadler bears no grudges.
“The fourth car at Richard Petty Motorsports adds a new dimension to our race team," he insisted, "I think we showed that in Daytona. Kasey, AJ, Reed and I got a chance to work together on and off the racetrack and I think it showed in our performance. I think we are off to a great start at Richard Petty Motorsports and I'm pumped to see what the future holds.”
Kevin Buskirk will be entering his second race at the helm of the #19 Dodge at Fontana, having previously worked with Sadler at Robert Yates Racing as the engineer and crew chief on the #38 Ford. In 2004, the combination recorded two race wins and made the Chase for the Championship, before Buskirk departed, spending the last two seasons as the director of research and development at Dale Earnhardt Inc.