By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In the two NASCAR Xfinity Series events held at Daytona International Speedway in 2018, Elliott Sadler has lost them both in photo finishes with a combined margin of victory of 0.005 seconds.
On Friday night, Sadler looked as if he would finally get the monkey off his back and make a return to victory lane, only to see Justin Haley swoop past him and Kyle Larson en route to the finish and Larson nip him at the line after Haley’s move was deemed illegal by the sanctioning body.
Sadler, who’s future in the Xfinity Series is up in the air for 2019 after news that his longtime sponsor One Main Financial would be cutting back next year, has come so close to winning so many times since his last series win back in September 2016 and let the frustration show after the race.
“This one hurts,” said Sadler. “I don’t know how many restrictor-plate races I have left in my career. To lose the one like we did in February, so close, I feel like we were in the right spot again.
“We were really paying attention to Kyle and trying to figure out what he was doing off of (Turn) 4, and he was really running into my door a lot and trying to slow me down. And I was trying to leave myself room to get away from him. And it was just a miscommunication that the 24 (Haley) was coming on the bottom. I could have definitely made a block there and got some momentum.
“I felt really good coming off of (Turn) 2, but there’s a lot of racing between there and Turn 4. The No. 24 car came out of nowhere and I just lost my momentum on the No. 42 (car). I’m devastated for my team and my partners. They deserve to be in Victory Lane.”
Starting the day in fifth place after qualifying was washed out, Sadler ran inside the top-five throughout the first stage, finishing the highest of the Xfinity Series regulars in the first 30-lap segment.
The second stage was more of the same as he started in 10th and bounced around the top-10 to finish the stage in ninth.
Following a battle with Ryan Blaney after a lap 78 restart, Sadler got his first taste of the lead, holding onto the top spot for three laps before Blaney took back over. Blaney’s retaking of the lead only lasted one lap, before Sadler and his No. 1 Chevrolet surged back out front. This time, his grasp of the lead would last longer, 14 laps to be exact.
Though he dropped back as the finish neared, Sadler fought his way back into a battle with Larson in overtime before everything that transpired in the final yards before the checkered flag.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, there is a bright side to Sadler’s second-place finish as he retook the points lead, heading to Kentucky with a 12-point advantage over Daniel Hemric.