For the second day in a row, the winner of the first two stages of a race has failed to finish the event after getting caught up in a wreck in the closing laps.
After Johnny Sauter won the first two stages in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday night only to get wrecked on the final lap, the winner of the first two stages in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race, Elliott Sadler, would suffer the same fate.
Sadler started the event in 11th place, but by lap 12, he had moved his No. 1 Chevrolet to the front of the field, where he would establish himself as one of the cars to beat as the race progressed.
When the first stage ended at lap 30, Sadler was still in the lead, and Stage 2 would end much the same with Sadler still up front, having led 32 of the 60 laps by that point in the race.
The final stage saw Sadler add another eight laps to his laps led total and with less than 20 laps to go, he would still be right up amongst the leaders as he was looking to score his first Daytona win and give JR Motorsports another win in the season opener. However, this go around it was not to be for Sadler.
With 17 laps to go, Sadler was right behind his JRM teammate Kasey Kahne heading down the backstretch when a bump draft gone wrong from Austin Dillon sent Sadler sideways into the outside wall and then back across the track, collecting a handful of other cars in the melee.
Despite his team’s best efforts to get the car repaired, their five minute clock ran out and they would be done for the day, handing Sadler a 24th place finish to start the season.
“We did get the two bonus points for the stage races, which are good to go toward our championship run that we’re going to have,” said Sadler. “So proud of this team for all of the hard work this winter, adding a fourth team and having these fast cars like we’ve had. We’ve got a lot of people here from OneMain Financial today and we really wanted to go to victory lane and Kevin gave me a car good enough to do that. It was so much fun to run up front like we did.”
“I know it was nothing intentional, we were just bump drafting, trying to get all you could get and just caught it a little wrong and wrecked it and couldn’t hold onto it. All in all, a great day. Thanks to all of the fans for watching at home.”
Much like Sauter on Friday, Sadler’s early exit did not also result in a poor points day as he will leave Daytona ranked third in points due to the points he accrued with his two stage wins.