Photo Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images
TALLADEGA, Ala. — Elliott Sadler had to go through contact with another car, a red flag period, and a three-lap shootout to get to victory lane in the Aaron’s 312 at the Talladega Superspeedway.
Sadler was able to deliver his first win for Joe Gibbs Racing in his 42nd series start for the team. The driver of the No. 11 OneMain Financial Camry also scored his 10th career Nationwide Series victory and his first victory at Talladega in any of NASCAR’s top-three series. Prior to today, Sadler’s main claim to fame (more like infamy) at Talladega were two wild rides he took in the Sprint Cup Series when his car went airborne in both 2003 and 2004. Now his Talladega highlight reel will have today’s win
“I have such a love-hate relationship with this race track,” Sadler said. “We always run good here, but I always doggone flip or wreck or hit hard or something. Every autograph session, everywhere I go, everybody always reminds me of the flip I had down the backstraighaway here. Now maybe they can ask me about winning here.”
Sadler and his JGR teammate, Sam Hornish Jr., started the race from the front row and would hang around in the top-10 for the majority of the day. Despite locking out the top-three starting spots, a JGR car was unable to lead the race until Sadler grabbed the lead on Lap 34.
Lap 45 brought out the second caution of the day and the first for an accident as Nationwide Series regulars Ryan Reed, James Buescher, and Dylan Kwasniewski came together in Turn 4. Ryan Blaney and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Darrell Wallace Jr. would also be involved in the accident – Blaney was able to continue the race.
After a 13 lap green flag period after the Lap 45 caution, a major wreck occurred that collected even more title contenders such as Brian Scott, Brendan Gaughan, and Trevor Bayne were collected in a 10-car melee that was triggered by Bayne getting into Scott’s left-rear quarter panel in Turn 4.
The field wasn’t through wrecking yet as another incident was triggered on Lap 113 when Blaney tried to side-draft off of Sadler and wound up bouncing off of the No. 11 car and into the wall. This caused a pile-up behind Blaney’s No. 22 Mustang that brought damage to the cars of Kasey Kahne, Ryan Sieg, Jeremy Clements, and points leader Chase Elliot. NASCAR would initiate a red flag period that would last for nine minutes as the track crew would work on clearing the track of all debris. All drivers were able to walk under their own power to the ambulance that would take them to the infield care center.
Once the red flag was lifted, the drivers paced around the 2.66-mile superspeedway for a few laps, setting up a three-lap shootout to the finish. Sadler led the field to the green flag but faced a strong challenge from the No. 60 Roush-Fenway Mustang of Chris Buescher on his outside. Buescher was able to edge ahead of Sadler coming to the white flag but it was Sadler that was able to prevail on the next lap and take the win.
With his win, Sadler moves to second in the points standings just one point behind current leader Elliott. The Nationwide Series takes a one-week break before returning to action at the Iowa Speedway for the Pioneer Hi-Bred 250 on Sunday, May 24th.
Top-10 Finishers of the Aaron’s 312
- 11 – Elliott Sadler – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing
- 60 – Chris Buescher# – Ford – Roush-Fenway Racing
- 7 – Regan Smith – Chevrolet – JR Motorsports
- 98 – David Ragan(i) – Ford – Biagi-Denbeste Racing
- 54 – Sam Hornish Jr. – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing
- 87 – Joe Nemechek(i) – Toyota – NEMCO Racing
- 28 – J.J. Yeley (i) – Dodge – Gregg Mixon
- 01 – Landon Cassill – Chevrolet – JD Motorsports
- 44 – David Starr – Toyota – TriStar Motorsports
- 6 – Trevor Bayne – Ford – Roush-Fenway Racing
# = Rookie.
(i) = Ineligible for Nationwide Series drivers’ points.
Top-10 Drivers’ Standings after Round 9 of 33
- 9 – Chase Elliott# – JR Motorsports – 339 | Leader | –
- 11 – Elliott Sadler – Joe Gibbs Racing – 338 | -1 | +1
- 7 – Regan Smith – JR Motorsports – 336 | -3 | -1
- 6 – Trevor Bayne – Roush-Fenway Racing – 308 | -31 | +1
- 3 – Ty Dillon# – Richard Childress Racing – 308 | -31 | -1
- 2 – Brian Scott – Richard Childress Racing – 277 | -62 | –
- 62 – Brendan Gaughan – Richard Childress Racing – 250 | -89 | –
- 99 – James Buescher – RAB Racing – 244 | -95 | –
- 60 – Chris Buescher# – Roush-Fenway Racing – 229 | -110 | +5
- 16 – Ryan Reed# – Roush-Fenway Racing – 225 | -114 | –
# = Rookie.