Elliott Sadler ends drought with wild win at Talladega

Gary Eller/Harold Hinson Photography

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

TALLADEGA, Ala. – On his 41st birthday, Elliott Sadler got an unexpected present.

When Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race ended under caution in overtime with the front-runners just short of the finish line, Sadler had the lead, after Joey Logano’s last-ditch attempt to block Sadler in the tri-oval ended with Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford plowing nose-first into the outside wall.

Brennan Poole got to the finish line first and thought he had won the race, until NASCAR officials reviewed the video of the finish and determined Sadler was ahead when the caution lights illuminated before Poole’s No. 48 Chevrolet reached the stripe.

“It’s a great birthday gift to me,” said an emotional Sadler, who broke a 65-race winless streak dating to May 2014 at Talladega. “We really needed this win. I told everybody this morning, ‘We’ve got the car to win this with. Things went our way, we had a little luck, and we were able to make it at the end.”

The victory was Sadler’s second in the series at Talladega and the 11th of his career, and it came with a deft move as the cars roared into the tri-oval on the second overtime lap.

Logano had the lead and blocked Sadler’s move to the outside. Sadler dived to the inside and contact between the cars sent Logano’s Ford out of control. The two cars collided again, and Logano’s No. 22 shot up into the wall, but Sadler was able to maintain control with his left-side tires on the infield grass and kept his JR Motorsports Chevrolet moving forward in the lead until NASCAR called the caution that ended the race.

“I was going to try to get to the outside of Joey,” Sadler said. “He made a great block, I went back to the inside and then I just held it straight. I’ve had some races I’ve done some good driving and some I’ve probably done some bad, but I feel like that was one of the best saves I’ve ever made through the grass to keep it straight.”

In fact, JR Motorsports got an unexpected double, because Justin Allgaier’s JRM Chevy was inches ahead of Poole’s car when the caution flew.

Poole took the disappointment with extremely good grace.

“I think I’m upbeat today because I had so much fun racing with everybody,” he said. “It was just a blast. As I was waiting there (for the decision), I was thinking, ‘Man, hopefully the caution didn’t come out as early as I think it came out,’ and I’m hoping we raced to the line.

“But at the same time, (I thought) hopefully NASCAR gets it right. I want the guy who deserves to win the race to be the winner and go by the rules. And according to the rules, Elliott was the winner. I can’t be mad about it. It is what it is.”

Logano likewise harbored no ill feelings toward Sadler, despite his hard crash into the outside wall.

“I know Elliott is a great speedway racer, and he knew what he had to do to win the race, and I knew what I had to do to try to keep him behind me,” Logano said. “He went to make the move on the top, and then he pulled it down to the bottom and got it underneath me, and then I was a little late to the block.

“He was already there. Around I went and hit a bunch of other stuff along the way.”

Jeremy Clements finished fourth, a career best, as Chevrolets claimed the top six positions, with Brendan Gaughan fifth and Austin Dillon sixth.

Notes: Sadler leaves Talladega tied for the series lead with seventh-place finisher Daniel Suarez—and with a spot in the first NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase… The victory was the second straight for JR Motorsports, piggy-backing on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win last week in Richmond.

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