DOVER, Del. (May 15, 2011) — A sixth-place finish in a rain-delayed, caution-extended contest at Dover (Del.) International Speedway moved Elliott Sadler into the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship lead. After a pit road penalty and an untimely red flag for rain, Sadler and the No. 2 OneMain Financial team fought back to a top-10 finish in a wild overtime finish at the Monster Mile.
After rain canceled qualifying and set the field per the NASCAR rule book, Sadler took the green flag for the weather-delayed 5-Hour Energy 200 from the eighth position based upon practice speeds. After taking over the seventh position on lap one, a multi-car wreck on lap two brought out the yellow flag. Too early in the race to visit pit road, Sadler remained on track and maintained his position for the lap eight restart.
Sadler slipped to the 12th position by lap 10, radioing to crew chief Ernie Cope that the No. 2 Chevrolet was too tight in the center and exit of the turns and needed more rear grip. As laps clicked by and air pressure began to build up in the tires, Sadler said that the car’s handling was improving and he moved into the ninth position before the scheduled competition caution on lap 40. Bringing the OneMain machine into the pits for the first stop of the day, the Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) team provided Sadler with four tires, fuel, and both air-pressure and chassis adjustments. Quick work by the crew earned Sadler one position in the pits, and he took the green flag for the lap 46 restart from the eighth position.
Sadler advanced to the sixth position by lap 52 and relayed to the crew that they had done a good job with the changes and the car was running much better. Maintaining his position until a lap 88 caution, Sadler brought the No. 2 car down pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. Once again the team earned a spot on pit road, and Sadler took the green flag on lap 101 in the fifth position.
Holding onto his top-five position until lap 123, Sadler felt that the car was losing grip and he slipped back to eighth before the yellow flag waved on lap 141. As rain threatened to sprinkle over the Monster Mile, Sadler brought the No. 2 down pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to regain grip. The crew once again provided a quick stop, but when Sadler returned to the track he was notified that he was too fast exiting pit road and would have to restart from the back of the field. Before green-flag racing could resume, rain began to fall and threatened to end the 200-lap race prematurely with Sadler scored in the 16th position. Fortunately, after a 28-minute red flag, the rain cleared and the track was dried for a lap 148 restart.
With his handling now improved, Sadler began a campaign to the front, and by lap 162 he was running 12th and laying down some of the fastest laps on the racetrack. Sadler entered the top-10 with only nine laps of regulation racing remaining, but the yellow flag waved on lap 198 for a single-car incident, forcing a green-white-checkered finish. With several cars opting to pit, Sadler took the green flag on lap 203 from the eighth position. Before the field took the white flag, a stalled car on the track brought out the yellow one lap later, further extending the planned 200-lap contest.
Restarting in eighth on lap 208, Sadler was approaching the white flag when a dramatic multi-car wreck erupted in front of him. Sadler skillfully navigated the melee, which included his KHI teammate Clint Bowyer in the No. 33 and brought out the yellow. With the white flag already in the air when the caution broke out, the race was officially complete on lap 209 with Sadler scored in the sixth position. The sixth-place finish moved Sadler into the championship lead, 10 points ahead of second place.
“This is exactly what we needed today,” said Sadler after the event. “Leading this championship is what we’ve been focused on since the first lap at Daytona, and it’s taken a lot of work and a lot of consistency to get here. We were 27th in the points when we left Daytona, so to be leading this series is a huge accomplishment for our guys. I got us in trouble today with the speeding penalty on pit road, and we thought our day was going to be a disappointment when it began to rain, but fortunately the skies cleared up and we were able to overcome it. I’m really proud of how hard we worked to get back into the top-10 and finish sixth.”
The Nationwide Series returns to action next weekend at Iowa Speedway on May 22nd for the John Deere Dealers 250 presented by Pioneer.
May 14, 2011
Dover (Del.) International Raceway
Race: 11 of 34
Driver’s Point Standings: 1st (+10)
Up Next On The NNS Schedule:
Date: May 22, 2011
Track: Iowa Speedway
Event Name: John Deere Dealers 250
Broadcast: ABC at 2:00 p.m. EST