By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The closest finish in NASCAR…ever. Elliott Sadler just wishes he would have been on the winning side of it.
Falling 0.000 seconds short to his JR Motorsports teammate Tyler Reddick, Sadler had to settle for second place at Daytona for the third time in his Xfinity Series career and the third straight race at restrictor plate tracks.
“I’ve been close here a lot of times, but this one hurt a lot today because you didn’t know,” said Sadler. “Did we? Or did we not? Who won? I was looking at the scoreboard and I was like ‘Well, the 9’s up there, so that’s not a good sign.’ I knew it was going to be close.
“This one hurts a lot. I don’t know how many more starts I’ll have at this race track. I’ve felt like I’ve always been pretty decent at this track. I’ve been very fortunate to be in good equipment at this track, which makes a big difference. I really want to get one of the trophies here at this place. It takes all aspects of your driving style and your cars and the pit crew and everybody working together. It’s a very prestigious win at Daytona and we’d just like to get one.”
Sadler’s runner-up finish was nothing short of amazing, with the veteran driver having to come back from a controversial black flag for locking bumpers with another of his teammates, Chase Elliott, followed by a backstretch spin in the waning laps. Through the five overtime periods that followed, Sadler methodically worked his way forward and put himself in position to win when it mattered most.
Coming off of Turn 4, the win was going to come down to Sadler and Reddick, with Sadler ahead at one point, but Reddick nosing ahead at the finish line.
“I think that’s three seconds in a row for me on superspeedway races, so we’ve got to figure out how to be leading one of these things. We had a pretty wild day. We spun out twice, got black flagged for something – I’m not real sure what yet. I think I was running 32nd on the first green-white-checkered attempt and we had a chance to win the race. Perseverance and never give up and just kind of stay after it. That’s kind of the motto of my race team and it kind of showed again today.”
The heartbreaking finish makes two of those kinds of finishes in a row for Sadler after falling short in the 2017 season finale at Homestead to finish as the runner-up in the championship. Team owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. noted how he has tried to help Sadler get past the disappointment of last November and Saturday’s finish.
“I exhausted everything after Homestead,” said Earnhardt. “It was so much for him to try and get past his experience in Homestead, but I knew, knowing Elliott, when this guy gets over this, he is going to be a handful and he was today. I think we saw an even more determined Elliott Sadler today than we’ve seen at Daytona in a long time and I think that’s the guy we see going forward for the rest of this year.
“He’s so determined to show what this team’s capable of. He knows they should have won more races last year and he in his heart knows they should have won the championship. He’s so determined to get back to Homestead and get that opportunity again, so I’d watch out for Elliott.
“I don’t know what I can tell him for today. He’s my age and has been through all of the ups and downs in the sport and knows what it’s like to lose the close ones. These probably are the ones you remember even over some of the wins. The ones you should have won are some of the most difficult to forget about. It’ll be a great season for him. I think he’s going to be a real tenacious, competitive driver all year and going to work hard.”