Holding Back Early Delivers Best Result of Season for Sadler
Elliott Sadler’s day almost ended early in Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway.
A bump from behind by Joey Logano on Lap 5 broke Sadler’s car loose and into the wall while racing down the backstretch. He managed to avoid crashing, and the field dodged a pile-up.
Damage was minimal, and repairs were made during a pit stop under the first caution on Lap 9.
The incident showcased the early aggression at the front of the pack that ultimately led to a nine-car wreck on Lap 22.
However, Sadler wasn’t involved as he dropped back following his brush with the wall and decided to hold back and let the first two stages play out before returning to the front.
Sadler’s 41 point advantage in the driver’s standings over teammate Justin Allgaier allowed the No. 1 OneMain Financial Chevrolet team to focus their strategy on battling for the win and the points up for grabs at the end of the race rather than after the stages.
Sadler finished Stage 1 in 28th and continued to race towards the back of the field in Stage 2, placing 21st.
He quickly climbed forward in the Final Stage, advancing from 24th to seventh in the first 13 laps. With less than 20 laps to go, he made it to the top-five as he eyed a second consecutive victory at Talladega.
After moving up to second behind eventual race winner Aric Almirola with less than five laps to go, he was in a position to attempt a last-lap pass on Almirola. However, the top lane developed a strong run, trapping Sadler on the bottom.
When Joey Logano lost his drafting help on the top in Turns 3 and 4, it cleared Sadler and offered one last opportunity to overtake Almirola. He ultimately didn’t have enough momentum to make the pass through the tri-oval and settled for second-place.
It marked his best finish of the season with his previous highest result of fourth coming at Bristol last month.
“That’s a good finish for us,” Sadler said. “I made a huge mistake there coming to the white. Me and my spotter were so focused on where the No. 22 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. Would have liked to got beside Aric and made a run for it but came up a little short.”
While hanging in the back and waiting until the Final Stage to race up front may not have been Sadler’s strategy coming into the event, it worked well by helping him avoid trouble and putting him in contention for the victory.
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