Elliott Sadler Was Frustrated After Coming Up Short On XFINITY Series Titleby Benjamin Sanders November 19, 2017
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – For the seventh season in a row, Elliott Sadler came up short on his dream of becoming a NASCAR XFINITY Series champion.
With eight laps remaining, Sadler was in prime position to claim his maiden title until he came across Ryan Preece who was struggling on old tires but was racing for the Owner’s Championship for Joe Gibbs Racing.
A dejected Sadler believes Preece wasn’t racing for anything as Preece’s nearest owner’s rival, Sam Hornish Jr. and his Penske Ford, was more than 10 seconds ahead of the battle between Sadler, Preece, eventual champion William Byron and Tyler Reddick.
“I don’t understand, he’s not racing anybody,” Sadler said. “Definitely a lack of respect. I hate it for my guys. They work too hard to get me in a position to win this championship. We were there, he just raced me hard and held me down. The 9 got a run on us and he let the 9 go. Very frustrating.”
However, Preece reiterates he did nothing wrong and was simply performing to the capabilities and requirement set by his team owner. Preece is a hard-nosed, blue collar modified racer from the Northeast who is unwilling to back down from a battle.
“I’m just doing what I’m doing for Joe (Gibbs) and Steve (DeSouza), they told me to race for the owner’s championship,’ Preece said. “We were trying to race the 9 (William Byron), when the 9 got by me I wanted to let him (Sadler) go too and let those two race at it.”
It is particularly heartbreaking for Sadler as he has finished second for the fourth time in the last six years. Sadler claims this is the most devastated he has ever been in his long NASCAR career.
“You never forget this,” Sadler said. “How many chances at a championship do you get with 10 laps to go? It’s the biggest disappointment of my career.”
The variable in this was the Owner’s Championship as four cars were battling to win. Sam Hornish Jr. finished second in the Ford Ecoboost 300 in his Team Penske Ford. Hornish’s performance on Saturday night ultimately claimed the Owner’s title. The No. 22 team posted four wins, 23 top-five and 28 top-10 finishes this season. After winning the IndyCar title, Roger Penske can still claim a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship and a Virgin Australia Supercars championship.
“I figured out if we keep all the air in the tires and make it past the second lap of the second stage, we do pretty good,” Hornish Jr. said. “Great day. It didn’t look really good after the first stint. I didn’t have any brakes left. Not sure what happened. We’ve been having a little bit of a brake issue. I may have rode them too hard trying to get the car to do what I wanted it to do. The Ford Mustang came to life after we were able to make some changes on it on the first stop. I basically didn’t use any brakes on the last 155 laps.”
Rivalry is always a good thing, and with both Sadler and Preece returning next season, it is an early storyline for 2018.
Photo Credit: Ben Sanders/TheFourthTurn.com