By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
Elliott Sadler will be hanging up his helmet at season’s end and winning a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship on the way out was first and foremost in the mind of the JR Motorsports driver heading into Saturday’s race at ISM Raceway.
Unfortunately for Sadler, that won’t come to fruition as he found himself eliminated from the Playoffs following an 11th place finish on the day.
“We fought way too many things today,” said Sadler. “We tried some new stuff and I led us in that direction, so I take full responsibility for that. My guys did so much for me this year, we were fast at the right times. Not closing the deal at Texas with a top-two or -three finish and not doing a good job here this weekend on setup stuff. I’m the driver and I don’t point fingers, so it’s on me.
“I feel like my guys are a really good race team. We run up front all year, I wish they were one of the four going to Homestead.”
Sadler entered the Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 with a 13 point advantage over the cut-off, but things started to go awry for him early in the race when he made contact with a backmarker near the end of Stage 1, causing damage to the right-front of his Chevrolet.
Though he was able to nurse it around to finish the stage and visit pit road without additional damage occurring, the early issues were enough to keep him behind the eight-ball for the remainder of the race.
Things got worse for Sadler after the conclusion of Stage 2 when Christopher Bell ascended to the lead, meaning Sadler would have to count on something big happening to close up the points battle again and give him a chance to climb back into the top-four in points and advance to Homestead with his title chances still intact.
While he held out hope of being able to bring his team a title, it remained quiet at the front of the field and his eventual finish just outside the top-10 was not enough to make that a reality.
A championship may not be a possibility next week at Homestead, but the veteran still has a chance to give his team a win before riding off into the sunset.
“It’s going to be emotional,” said Sadler of his final race. “I’ve been doing this for 23 years. Been doing it since I was seven, putting a helmet on every weekend, so it’s going to be emotional. It’s going to be more relaxing not running for a championship, but it’s going to suck too.
“I really wish my guys were going down there to run for a championship. It’s more about them and my sponsors and my team than it is about me.”