SPARTA, Ky, (July 9, 2011) - On Friday night at Kentucky Speedway Elliott Sadler and the No. 2 OneMain Financial team scored their ninth top-five finish of the season and returned to the NASCAR Nationwide Series Driver’s Point lead. Sadler began the race with the pole award in the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet, but as the green flag dropped, the driver had to fight through adversity and survive the fuel-mileage battle in his efforts to a fifth-place finish.
Sadler and the Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) team earned the pole at Kentucky with a lap of 31.082 seconds (173.734 mph). Serving as his second pole of the season and 14th top-10 start in 2011, the top spot this weekend was also his first career pole in his first start at Kentucky Speedway. The pole also serves as his eighth NASCAR Nationwide Series pole in 148 series starts.
Starting on the front row and electing to start on the high side, Sadler brought the field to green for the Feed the Children 300 and pulled ahead to a solid lead in the opening laps. On lap eight, Sadler’s KHI teammate and team co-owner Kevin Harvick took the lead but the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet ran a close second. The KHI duo kept a large cushion between them and the rest of the field until lap 31 when they began to lap back-of-the pack cars.
The first caution of the day flew on lap 42 with Sadler running in the third position behind Harvick and Carl Edwards. Crew chief Ernie Cope called the driver down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment. Green flag racing resumed on lap 47 with Sadler in the third position, but on the restart, he was shuffled in traffic back to the sixth position. The driver relayed to his crew that the adjustment from the pit stop made the Chevrolet a bit loose, and would need an adjustment to tighten up on the next stop.
The yellow waved on lap 65, and Sadler brought the OneMain Financial car to the pit stall for right-side tires only, fuel and an air-pressure and chassis adjustment.
Sadler restarted the race in the fifth position and continued to run in the top-five, taking care of his car throughout the 200-lap race. The leaders continued to battle lapped traffic, and by lap 96, Sadler was shuffled back to the eighth position after getting passed in lap traffic. The driver relayed to his KHI crew that the car was too loose to manage through the traffic and asked Cope for an adjustment on the next stop to tighten him up.
The field was slowed for the third caution of the day on lap 100, providing an opportunity for the OneMain Financial team to tighten up the racecar. When Sadler brought the Chevrolet down pit road, the team gave the car four tires, fuel and added a rubber in the left rear. Sadler restarted in the ninth position, but the field was slowed again on the same lap.
As the caution flew, the team discovered severe right-rear tire rub, creating concern for Cope. The crew chief communicated with his driver that the tire was down to the canvas layer, and they could not afford to continue with something rubbing on the tire that could create even worse problems in the future. Cope called Sadler down pit road to assess the situation under the caution period, and the crew added fuel and removed the right rear to see what was rubbing on the tire. After close evaluation, the crew decided it was the track bar, and created clearance from the tire.
Still under caution, Sadler caught back up with the pack and came down pit road one more time to ensure the issue was alleviated. Sadler restarted on lap 111 in the 23rd position as the last car on the lead lap.
With 75 laps to go, Sadler knew that he had enough time to work his way to the front. The yellow flag flew again on lap 133, and Sadler told his crew chief that the car was really loose in turn three and the right rear grip was gone. The No. 2 came down pit road for chassis and air-pressure adjustments, left-side tires and fuel.
Back under green-flag conditions, the adjustments seemed to help and as the laps ticked away, Sadler knocked off positions one-by-one. Sitting in the 11th position by lap 152, Cope said that the No. 2 was faster than all but the top-three cars.
With 20 laps to go, Sadler asked Cope if he should keep running hard or begin to save fuel for what could be a tight fuel race to the finish. Cope encouraged Sadler to keep running hard and keep picking off positions as he moved his way forward in the field.
By lap 185, Sadler moved his way into the eighth position, and was encouraged to take care of the fuel. The team saw that other cars were beginning to pit for fuel only, but Cope held strong in his plan to keep running. He encouraged Sadler to save all he could, and the next car behind him was more than 11 seconds back.
Sadler took the white flag in the sixth position, and had enough lead on the seventh-place car, that all he had to do was cross the finish line to keep his position. With cars running out of fuel all around, Sadler crossed the finish line in the fifth position, marking his ninth top-five and 13th top-10 this season.
The strong weekend places Sadler back at the head of the Driver’s Point Standings, four points ahead of Reed Sorenson, 27 marks ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and 43 points ahead of Justin Allgaier.
Sadler and the No. 2 OneMain Financial team will be back in action on July 16 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The green flag is set to wave on the New England 200 with live coverage from ESPN beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET and PRN at 3 p.m. ET.
Comments from driver Elliott Sadler
“I am so proud of our guys. Man,it feels good to have a finish like that. We were really close there at the end with fuel mileage. Closer than we would have like to been, but clearly we were able to save enough throughout the race to make it work. The OneMain Financial team worked incredibly hard, and we really fought back after a lot of adversity. After one of the stops, the guys noticed a bit of tire wear on the right-rear side, so we had to come in and check it out to make sure that we weren’t going to have a problem with it throughout the rest of the race. Those two unscheduled stops put us at the back of the lead lap cars, but we were able to battle through it and survive the fuel-mileage race. This team is full of competitors, and I have that to thank for being on top of the Driver’s Point Standings. We’re going to keep pushing and keep looking toward the goal of winning this championship.”