DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 2, 2011) -A wild last-lap incident involving several cars put the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet in the eighth placeat Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Friday night. After leading 31 laps, the most of any driver in the 100-lap event, Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) driver Elliott Sadler earned his 12th top-10 finish of the season.
Rain showers delayed the start of the weekend, changing the original schedule of two practice sessions to one 45-minute session Thursday afternoon. Sadler teamed up with KHI teammate Clint Bowyer in the No. 33 Menards Chevrolet to practice drafting together around the slick 2.5-mile superspeedway. After only four laps of practice, a car moved up into the path of the two KHI cars, causing the No. 33 to check up and spin into the infield. The No. 2 sustained minor damage, but the OneMain Financial team worked hard to get the car ready for the race.
With warm, dry weather Friday afternoon, Sadler qualified the No. 2 Chevrolet in the third position for the main event, setting up a dominating starting grid with all four KHI cars in the first two rows which was a first for any organization in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Anticipation built around the 100-lap race, and as the green flag waved, the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet quickly found his Daytona dancing partner in team co-owner and polesitter Kevin Harvick in the No. 4 OneMain Financial Chevrolet. The two OneMain Financial cars worked together as Sadler pushed Harvick in the lead, setting up two pairs of KHI cars that worked together with the No. 9 of Tony Stewart and the No. 33 of Clint Bowyer behind the OneMain Financial cars.
The tandem made the first switch of the night on lap nine, as the No. 2 went wide to get to the front of the No. 4. Sitting in the ninth and 10th-place positions at the time, Sadler utilized the push from Harvick to get the two teams back to the front of the pack by lap 16.
The first caution of the night fell on lap 26. Crew chief Ernie Cope called the No. 2 down pit road for left-side tires and fuel only, and the quick stop from the KHI crew put the No. 2 in the first position to restart the race.
Another quick caution fell on lap 35, and Cope called for Sadler to stay out on track. The green flag dropped again with Harvick bringing the field to green, and Sadler jumped behind him to begin the push around the track. As the two OneMain Financial cars made the switch on lap 42, the caution was brought out again for an accident. Sitting in the 10th position, Sadler brought the Chevrolet Impala down pit road for right-side tires and fuel, a decision the team made in order to stay on track with the strategy of drafting partner Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 KHI team.
The race resumed on lap 48 with Sadler in the 13th position. Harvick radioed to the No. 2 team that he was going to work with Bowyer, who had fallen back in the pack after an early unscheduled pit stop. Sadler and teammate Stewart discussed a strategy on the radio to begin a new drafting pair between the two cars. The green flag dropped on lap 49, but the field could not finish a full lap as car stacked up on the restart, causing NASCAR to bring the field under caution for the fourth time.
The track officials cleaned up debris on the frontstretch, and racing resumed on lap 53. Sadler went to find his new drafting partner Stewart, who sat just a few spots ahead. By lap 61, Stewart and Sadler pushed their way to the front with Stewart piloting the two around the track. As the two swapped positions on lap 63, traffic caught up to the duo, pushing both cars back to the eighth and ninth positions.
It did not take long, however, for the two to get back to lead with Sadler taking the reigns as the lead car on lap 66. He reported that his OneMain Chevrolet was just a little free, and suggested Stewart should push the No.2 on the right rear of the Chevrolet.
With Stewart reporting that his KHI machine was getting a bit hot, the two made the switch again on lap 71. Sitting in the seventh and eighth position, Stewart led the cars around the track.
The caution flag waved on lap 79 for KHI teammate Bowyer as he made contact with the outside wall on the backstretch. The No. 2 OneMain Financial car came down pit road for the final stop of the night, receiving fuel and a tear off from the windshield.
The efficient stop from the No. 2 crew put the car in the second position to restart the race on lap 84. Stewart quickly linked up with Sadler, and the two pushed to the lead in the next lap.A spin behind the two cars on lap 90 brought out the caution again for the field. The No. 2, sitting in the lead position, opted not to pit.
Racing under the lights, the field came to the line for an exciting seven-lap shootout at the superspeedway. Sadler dropped down to the low side of the track, getting in front of Stewart right away.
Leading the field with five laps remaining, a strong surge from Danica Patrick and Aric Almirola pushed the JR Motorsports cars past Stewart and Sadler, but the KHI teammates were able to regain the lead. Sadler took the white flag with pressure from a strong pack of cars approaching from behind. The two KHI cars broke apart, but quickly found each other in the midst of traffic. Coming out of turn four on the last lap, two cars in front of Sadler made contact, starting a domino effect. The No. 2 and the No. 9 went low to avoid what was unfolding, but got caught up in the accident. The No. 2 was sent into the inside wall, and slid across the finish line pinned against the wall with two other cars in flames. Sadler was able to get out of the car safely and walked away with an eighth-place finish. He remains in second place in the Nationwide Series Driver’s Point standings, nine points behind leader Reed Sorenson.
The No. 2 OneMain Financial team will head to Kentucky Speedway next Friday night for the Feed the Children 300. The green flag is set to wave at 7:30 p.m. ET with live coverage on ESPN.