ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (June 26, 2011) — After three green-white-checkered attempts, Elliott Sadler crossed the finish line under caution in the fourth position at Road America on Saturday. Steering the Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet Impala, Sadler saved enough fuel throughout the extended 54-lap event to earn his eighth top-five finish of the season.
Sadler, a 14-year veteran in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, made his first start at the Elkhart Lake, Wis., road course, sporting rookie stripes on the back of the OneMain Financial Chevrolet. After 30 laps of practice during two sessions on Friday, Sadler and the KHI team felt comfortable with the Chevrolet and looked to quickly take hold of the 4.087-mile, 14-turn road course on Saturday.
With a 43-car field that included some well-known road course specialists, Sadler started from the seventh position for the 50-lap race and steadily held track position among the top 10 for the opening laps. The first caution of the day fell on lap six, and crew chief Ernie Cope used the opportunity to put his fuel-mileage strategy in place. Cope instructed Sadler to stay out, putting the No. 2 in the second position. He also relayed that Sadler should start saving as much fuel as possible with the thought that the race could turn into a fuel-mileage competition at the end.
The field went back to green on lap 10 with Sadler in the second position, but was shuffled back to fifth on the restart. Sticking with Cope’s strategy, the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet came to pit road for the team’s first green-flag pit stop on lap 15. The KHI crew put on four fresh tires and filled the vehicle with two cans of fuel, putting the No. 2 back on track in the 25th position.
The second caution flew on lap 21, but the team opted to stay out on the course with plenty of fuel to make it to their next scheduled stop. Cope relayed to Sadler that he saved almost two gallons of fuel during the first caution, helping the fuel strategy even more. The field went back to green on lap 24 with the No. 2 in the fourth position, and Sadler continued to push forward.
By lap 26, Cope informed Sadler that he was currently the fastest car on the track, running in the second position. A caution on lap 28 slowed Sadler’s progress, but he continued to run in the second position until his next scheduled pit stop on lap 34. Coming down pit road for a green-flag stop, the No. 2 KHI crew filled the car with fuel and put on four tires, leaving pit road in the 21st position.
The laps ticked away, and Sadler continued to pick off positions. As the field approached the 41st lap of the race, Sadler sat in the seventh position. With five laps to go, the driver fought for the sixth position with the No. 31 car and through the middle section of the course, successfully made the pass for the position.
A fourth caution slowed the field on lap 47. Sadler, holding sixth position at the time of caution, was ensured by Cope that the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet had enough fuel to endure the first green-white-checkered attempt but if the race was extended any further, the team would be very close on fuel.
The field came to green for the first attempt in overtime, and Sadler was able to narrowly avoid an incident involving the Nos. 22, 11 and KHI teammate Max Papis in the No. 33 on lap 50. The field was slowed for a caution to clean up the track, and Cope discussed his strategy with Sadler for the upcoming restart. The team decided not to pit going into the second green-white-checkered finish.
Anticipation built as the field came back to green on lap 52. In the fourth position, Sadler knew that he had to conserve fuel and be competitive. The No. 31 car took the lead on the second overtime attempt, but another caution fell after an incident involving several cars occurred after the green flag waved.
As the team prepared for the final restart, Cope was concerned that the No. 2 Chevrolet did not have enough fuel. Strategically, Cope decided to again stay out on the track and not pit for the final attempt to finish the Bucyrus 200 under green-flag conditions.
Sadler took the final restart from the fifth position. As the driver navigated his way through the first few turns, another incident behind the No. 2 car brought out the final caution of the race, therefore ending the event under caution.
As a final twist to the caution-filled ending, the No. 31 car of Justin Allgaier, who held the lead just prior to the wave of the final yellow flag, ran out of gas before he could reach the checkered flag. After NASCAR officials carefully reviewed the replays to determine positions at the time of caution, Reed Sorenson was declared the winner. Sadler scored a fourth-place finish, his eighth top-five and 11th top-10 finish of the 2011 season. He currently sits in the second position in the Nationwide Series Driver’s Point standings, five points behind leader Sorenson.
The No. 2 OneMain Financial team will hit the track next Friday night as the NASCAR Nationwide Series returns to Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway for the second time this season. Tune in to ESPN to watch the green flag will wave for the Subway Jalapeno 250 at 7:30 p.m. ET.