Entering Talladega, the NASCAR Xfinity Series points leader, Elliott Sadler, was one of the favorites to be able to score back-to-back wins at the 2.66-mile superspeedway, but after sustaining some damage early in the race, Sadler had his work cut out for him to be able to come back finish as a runner-up in the Sparks Energy 300.
“That’s a good finish for us,” said Sadler. “I made a huge mistake there coming to the white. Me and my spotter were so focused on where the 22 (Joey Logano) was because he had a really good car and he’s so good at it. I kind of made a mistake where I was on the track and would have like to have gotten beside Aric and made a run for it, but came up a little short. Proud of my guys. We changed a left front shock today and changed some front-end settings and all of that after the first segment and battled our way back to a second-place finish. All in all, it was a good day for us.”
After starting the day in 14th, Sadler quickly worked his way up through the field and was well on his way toward the lead, but heading down the backstretch early in the first stage, an errant bump draft from Joey Logano caused Sadler to sideswipe the outside wall. The contact with the wall caused some damage to the side of Sadler’s No. 1 Chevrolet, but also scrubbed off a lot of speed, dropping him out of the lead draft.
Fortunately for Sadler, the caution flew at lap nine because of fluid on the track from Ray Black, Jr., allowing him to come down pit road and repair the damage on the right side of his car.
Though Sadler was further back in the pack after repairing the damage on his car, he was able to avoid the two multi-car crashes on the day in the first and second stages and although he didn’t finish in the top-10 in either of those stages, he was able to put himself in prime position to challenge for the win over the final 63 laps of the race.
As the laps wound down, pit strategy had separated the leaders, with three of the four JR Motorsports cars, Sadler included, running in the lead draft. Though it looked like the three JRM cars and Erik Jones were set to settle the race amongst themselves, the final caution flew for debris on lap 99, bunching the field back up for an 11-lap shootout for the win.
Throughout the final 11 laps, cars were ducking and diving from lane to lane, with four different drivers holding the lead during that stint. Sadler looked like he had a shot at the win after pulling in behind eventual race winner Aric Almirola on the final lap, but ran out of real estate to be able to try and get by him, settling instead for second place.
The runner-up finish for Sadler marks his best finish of the season, besting his previous season best of fourth at Bristol two weeks ago. Though he has yet to win in 2017, Sadler still holds a healthy 29 point lead over his JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier.