Championship Hopes Fade Following Chicagoland
By Summer Bedgood – Elliott Sadler came into the weekend needing a good run in order to get back into championship contention in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Sadler came into the Chicago weekend 28 points behind points leader Sam Hornish Jr., and was quickly losing site of the points lead with the number of races winding down on the schedule.
It wasn’t to be. As Sadler began to head to pit road for a green flag pitstop with around 40 to go, he slowed his No. 11 Toyota as he exited turn four and drove closer to the entrance to pit road. As he slowed, Sadler says he stuck his hand out the window, but it appears that Brett Butler didn’t see him because he ran right into the back of Sadler. Sadler, as a result, sustained heavy rear end damage as a result. Though Sadler would finish the race, he would do so in the 19th position one lap down.
“I had my hands stuck way out the window, and I wear white gloves so you can seem them,” said Sadler. “I don’t even know who drives the 24 this week. They just run in the back of us and tore our car all to pieces and put us in a hole.”
Indeed. Though Sadler didn’t lose any actual positions in the standings, he went from 28 points out to 44. Though it is not an insurmountable amount, especially with seven races still left to play out, there will have to be some bad luck from Hornish as well as second place Austin Dillon for Sadler to have a legitimate shot at the championship.
If Chicago was any indication, though, it doesn’t look like that will happen. Both Dillon and Hornish were outrunning Sadler leaps and bounds on Saturday, with Hornish running in the top three for most of the race. Dillon wasn’t usually far behind, and finished fourth with Hornish right in front of him at third.
In fact, both Hornish and Dillon have outrun Sadler for most of this season, with Hornish having an average finish of 9.2, Dillon with an average finish of 9.8, and Sadler with an average finish of 10.6. Though he is not far off of either driver by any means, it is the recent loss of momentum that has worked to Sadler’s detriment. Neither Dillon nor Hornish have finished worse than 12th in the last four races. Meanwhile, Sadler has finished outside of the top 15 twice in the last four events.
And what about Regan Smith? The third place driver has a role in this, too, and even he finished a measly 13th. With a 36 point gap between himself and the leader, his standing in this series championship is no better than Sadler’s.
With just a handful of races left, it appears that Dillon and Hornish are making this a two man race, and it will take a resurgence in consistency from both Sadler and Smith to change.
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