Sadler ‘devestated’ as championship slips away

Russell LaBounty/NKPPhoto

By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

HOMESTEAD, Fla.—Elliott Sadler’s shot at winning his first championship in the NASCAR XFINITY Series after contact with Ryan Preece in the closing laps of the race cost him a shot for the championship.

Sadler started the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the 14th position. Although the qualifying performance was not there, Sadler worked his way into the top-10 by the Lap 10 of the race. Throughout the first stage, Sadler was battling a tight race car in the middle of the corners and was leaning on the right rear of the car. Sadler was able to get to the back bumper of Daniel Hemric on Lap 40, but let out of the throttle. He finished the first stage in the eighth position.

During the pit stop of the stage break, Sadler was overall fighting a loose race car and needed some assistance on exiting the corner from the middle. Sadler restarted the second stage in the eighth position. Throughout the second stage, Sadler had to chase his teammate, William Byron, for majority of the second stage. Sadler was ended up finishing the stage in the sixth position.

Sadler continued to fight tight conditions in the three and four throughout the second stage. Due to a quick pit stop, Sadler moved up to the fourth position to start the final stage.

The battle between Byron and Sadler continued throughout the final stage. Despite race leader, Cole Custer, setting a record pace during the race, the battle heated up as the laps closed down between Sadler and Byron.

After green flag pit stops, Sadler was able to beat Byron off the pit lane, but the battle continued. Throughout the closing laps, Sadler was beginning to lose his patience while telling his crew that he was “about to wreck him” as Byron was aggressively blocking lanes. Coming off of turn four on Lap 162, Sadler and Byron made contact with each other, but were able to continue. Nearly two laps later, Sadler passed Byron as he tagged the wall.

The championship was all but Sadler’s until nine laps to go. Sadler and Preece made contact that would ultimately land him with a flat right front tire.

After the race, Sadler expressed his displeasure with Preece, while being blocked by NASCAR officials.

“Just very frustrating end to the night, to be that close to a NASCAR championship to be raced by somebody that was not racing for anything that all was— put us in a pretty bad position there at the end and let William catch us. Just very devastating to me right now to have one taken away from you like that,” said Sadler post-race.

Preece was racing for an owner’s title, but Sam Hornish Jr. was ahead by nearly 10 seconds. Sadler felt that Preece did not show him the respect that he needed while racing for a championship. The only reason why Preece was in the race was to win the owner’s title for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“I mean, really I got hired to race this race for the owner championship. We weren’t anywhere near the 22 (Sam Hornish Jr.), but we were racing the 9 (William Byron). It’s pretty much what I said. If it was the 7 (Justin Allgaier) and the 1 (Elliott Sadler) or anyone else that wasn’t in for that owner championship, probably, I definitely would have just laid right over. I’ve been an Elliott Sadler fan growing up, so if I wanted somebody to win that owner championship, or driver championship, it would have been him. Just, I can’t not listen to my owner. I can’t not listen to my, the guy who’s paying you in the end, so it’s just a tough deal. It’s crappy in the end – but I hate controversy,” said Preece about the incident.

For four of the last six years, Sadler has finished second in the points. According to Sadler, tonight was the closes he was to finally clinching a championship.

“That’s pretty hard to swallow. I’ve been racing a long time; y’all know that. But I would say tonight is the most devastating and down and out I’ve ever felt in my career.”

Sadler finished eighth on Saturday night.

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