HAMPTON, Ga. (September 4, 2011) — Elliott Sadler and the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet team brought home a hard-earned top-10 finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday night in the NASCAR Nationwide Series after going a lap down and battling handling problems with the car throughout the weekend.
Under the lights at the 1.5-mile track, Sadler took the green flag in the ninth position and began to fight through the field. By lap 30, Sadler fell to the 14th position, and he relayed that the car was loose on entry, tight in the middle and loose on the exit.
The field was slowed for the first caution of the night on lap 42 for a car in the wall in turn two, providing an opportunity for the No. 2 team to make changes to the Chevrolet Impala. The KHI crew gave the car four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment.
The field went back to green on lap 47 with Sadler in the 13th position. The driver communicated that the adjustments helped the Chevrolet, but he was using the right-rear tire too much in the run.
The second caution of the night fell on lap 68 for the No. 87 car spinning in turn two. Crew chief Ernie Cope instructed Sadler to make a pit stop if the leaders came down pit road. The leaders made a move to pit, so Sadler brought the OneMain Financial Chevrolet to pit road on lap 71 in the 12th position for four tires and fuel. The quick stop moved the No. 2 up one position to 11th for the restart on lap 74.
Sadler was quickly shuffled back in traffic to the 15th position as the yellow flag dropped on lap 77 for a spin involving the No. 62 car. The driver relayed that the car was really tight in the middle of the corner, but extremely loose on the entry and exit.
With only three cars behind the No. 2 on the lead lap, Cope and Sadler devised a plan to come down pit road to make adjustments to help the handling of the car. The KHI crew made a chassis adjustment and topped the car off with fuel, but did not change the tires. Sadler restarted on lap 81 in the 16th position.
After a few laps of green-flag racing, Sadler told Cope that he felt that the adjustments did not work, and the car was much looser on entry and exit and even tighter in the center. By lap 116, Sadler was the last car on the lead lap in the 15th position, but was soon passed on lap 121 by race leader Carl Edwards putting the No. 2 one lap down.
In efforts to continue to work on the car, Cope called Sadler to pit road on lap 122 for four tires and fuel. Sadler returned to the field in the 17th position, still one lap down to the leaders.
The field was slowed for another caution on lap 133 as the No. 14 got into the wall. Sadler said that the car was still very loose and that the right-rear tire was spinning on exit of the turns. To help alleviate some of the issues, the No. 2 team pitted under caution to put a spring rubber in the right rear and make a chassis adjustment to improve the handling.
The team went back to green-flag racing on lap 139, and Sadler fell into three-wide racing. He continued to battle his way around the track, and Cope told the driver to do what he could to save fuel. Another yellow was brought out on lap 164, but Cope informed the driver not to pit and to continue to save fuel. The No. 2 OneMain Financial received the wave-around on lap 165 in the 17th, placing the driver back on the lead lap.
The field resumed green-flag racing on lap 168, but was slowed again on lap 170 for a multi-car incident. The team’s pit strategy played into their favor, and the No. 2 came down pit road on lap 172 for four tires and fuel.
The quick stop by the crew put Sadler back on track in the 14th position. With 19 laps to go when the green flag dropped, Sadler worked his way to the ninth position. The driver fought to hold the ninth position but fell to 10th in the final laps where he would remain until the checkered flag waved. Sadler maintains the second position in the Nationwide Series Driver’s Point Standings, 13 points behind leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Sadler will gear up with the OneMain Financial team to head to his home state of Virginia for the Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway Friday, September 9. ESPN will broadcast the event live at 7:30 p.m. ET with live MRN coverage at 7:15 p.m.
Comments from driver Elliott Sadler:
“What a tough race. We battled with the handling all night, but I give the No. 2 guys credit for continuing to try to help the car throughout the entire 195 laps. Coming from a lap down, we worked hard to fight back for that 10th-place finish. We will be at it again in Richmond next weekend.”