For the first time since 2012 and the first time in a Joe Gibbs Racing car, Elliott Sadler was victorious in the Nationwide Series as he won the Aaron’s 312 at Talladega Superspeedway.
For Sadler, it marks his first win since August 2012 when he drove to victory lane with Richard Childress Racing. Sadler made the move to JGR last year, though went winless all season as bad luck plagued now.
Now with the win at Talladega, Sadler looks to be headed in the right direction as he currently sits second in points, one behind Chase Elliott.
“We just got on the inside line there and made some good moves,” Sadler commented. “It means a lot to me to get these guys to victory lane. So glad to win with everyone here from One Main Financial. Everybody talks about how I keep flipping at Talladega and now I’ve won one!”
Sadler got a good qualifying run in during qualifying and was able to stay upfront all race long. On a late race restart with six laps to go, Sadler was able to push David Starr out to the lead when Chase Elliott didn’t get going on the restart and then make the pass down the backstretch to get the advantage.
Surviving the incidents throughout the race and slowly making his way to the front, Chris Buescher finished second after contending for the win late with a run to Sadler’s outside. For the rookie, it marks his first career top five finish.
Defending race winner Regan Smith tried to make a charge late, however came up short as he crossed the line third.
“I don’t know what I was trying to do. I was just trying to get some daylight in front of the car and get close,” he commented. “We needed that – we needed to get back in the top five. Hate being able to see the flag and not get there first, but good day nether the less.”
Last year’s Sprint Cup Series Talladega winner David Ragan crossed the line fourth.
Some people are questioning the validity of the top four finishes as a result of possible “lock and pushing” maneuvers due to them breaking away from the rest of the field. However, various camera points during the day displayed that drivers would bump each other and then back off a tid bit before bumping again.
“We understand what it is but it’s tough to tell when we go over that line,” Smith expressed in the media center.
Pole sitter Sam Hornish Jr. finished fifth, followed by Joe Nemechek, J.J Yeley, Landon Cassill, David Starr and Trevor Bayne. Bayne had to fight back for his top 10 finish after receiving damage on a lap 61 caution after he made contact with Brian Scott. The contact sent Scott into the wall, also collecting Robert Richardson Jr., Ryan Reed, Chad Boat, Kyle Larson and Ty Dillon.
“The 6 (Bayne) got into the left rear corner and anybody who has done superspeedway knows that you can’t do that as it turns them immediately,” Scott explained. “It’s unfortunate when you’re a victim of stupidity.”
Scott wasn’t the only victim of bump drafting gone wrong as other drivers found themselves on the unfortunate end.
The first incident was at lap 43 when Ryan Blaney got into James Buescher, sending Buescher spinning. Buescher went down below the yellow line and thought he was safe when Darrell Wallace, Ryan Reed and Dylan Kwasniewski made contact with him,
“Got such a big run and 6 (Bayne) gave me a tap and tapped into him. I’m sorry,” Blaney said.
“I tried to stay out of the storm of what Talladega produces so I don’t know,” Wallace commented. “I hate plate racing. I’m horrible at it and I just don’t like it. We had a camry and it just gets ruined here once again.”
“It looked like the 99 (Buescher) got spun out, everyone checked up and it’s hard to when you’re carrying so much speed,” Kwasniewski explained. “We just had to stay out of trouble and unfortunately we didn’t.”
“I was pushing the 2 (Scott) up there and he was staying high so I could get through and the 22 (Blaney) just pushing on the wrong part of the bumper,” Buescher commented. “When you do that time and time again, it just spins you out. That’s not the frustrating part. I tried to keep myself down below the yellow line and I still got hit and now I have a tore up car.”
With 10 laps to go, Chad Boat met the wall as well after Jamie Dick made contact with him when the field accordioned after Smith got stuck in the middle.
“I’m fine. All my safety equipment did it’s job,” Boat said. “I can’t say enough about this team. For a small team, we were running good. It seems that they all stacked up and someone got into me.”
Then on the ensuing restart, Blaney tried to side-draft off of Sadler, though mis-judged and got into the wall, collecting Ryan Sieg, Kasey Kahne, Elliott and Jeremy Clements.
“I ran into the back of the 22 when he came off the wall and I hit him, and then an oil line broke so there was a quick fire,” Kahne commented. “I just wanted to get to the last lap. JR Motorsports cars have been upfront all year so thy were nice to drive this weekend.”
The Nationwide Series will have a week off before returning on May 18th at Iowa Speedway.