News & Media


Sadler back in Victory Lane after 14 seasons

March 05, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Elliott Sadler got some well-deserved payback at Phoenix International Raceway.

At the one-mile venue where a wreck in Turn 3 effectively knocked him out of the Nationwide Series championship hunt last November, Sadler took the lead with 26 laps left in the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 and held off hard-charging Brad Keselowski for the win.

Phoenix

Results
Pos.DriverMake
2.Brad KeselowskiDodge
3.Ricky Stenhouse Jr.Ford
4.Austin DillonChevrolet
5.Kevin HarvickChevrolet

The victory was Sadler's first at PIR, the sixth of his career and his first in the Nationwide Series since 1998 at Rockingham, N.C.

Defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran third, followed by rookie Austin Dillon and Kevin Harvick, who dominated much of the race, leading 107 of 200 laps, but fell victim to pit strategy in the late going.

Rather than enjoy a sense of vindication at Phoenix, however, Sadler would prefer to forget what happened last year.

"Honestly, it feels like three or four years ago," said Sadler, who leads the series standings by 10 points over second-place Dillon. "Last year was last year, and, yes, it probably could have affected how the championship could have worked, but we're on a whole new deal, a whole new season, a whole new outlook with a different team [with the sale of Harvick's Nationwide operation to Richard Childress Racing], so, honestly, what happened here last year just felt like a long time ago.

"It did not weigh on my mind one second of the whole weekend I was here. I felt like, coming out of Daytona, leading the points with a third-place finish, we just had a lot of momentum on our side . . . I try not to dwell on what happened last year. I try to learn from what maybe I did wrong and apply it. But I'm trying to stay more focused on what we're doing week-to-week this year."

Keselowski took the lead from pole-sitter Denny Hamlin after a restart on Lap 168 but couldn't hold it.

"We're coming off four consecutive top-twos," said Keselowski, who also finished second in the Feb. 25 Drive4COPD 300 at Daytona. "That's pretty good. To come out of the gate and have two strong runs, that's a lot to be proud of.

"I obviously wanted to get one more spot and pick up the win, but Elliott was a little stronger. There's nothing to be ashamed of running second, but we'll keep pushing, and if we keep putting ourselves in this position, we'll get a win."

Driving for RCR, Harvick took control of the race on Lap 53, when he passed Hamlin for the lead four circuits after a restart. He pulled away to an advantage of more than six seconds before Kenny Wallace's crash into the Turn 4 wall caused the second caution of the afternoon.

Hamlin regained the lead off pit road on Lap 105, but it didn't last, as Harvick took over the top spot moments after the subsequent restart on Lap 111.

Harvick stayed out front until NASCAR called the third caution on Lap 163 for debris in Turn 3. When the lead-lap cars pitted one circuit later, Harvick took four tires and came out seventh, as the six drivers ahead of him either took two tires or fuel only on their stops.

Keselowski passed Hamlin for the lead after the restart on Lap 168 but surrendered the top position to Sadler on Lap 175.

Notes-N-Nuggets

• Elliott Sadler picked up his sixth career Nationwide Series victory in his 166th start.
• Elliott Sadler's previous win came at Rockingham in Oct. 1998, 91 starts ago.
• It's Elliott Sadler's first Phoenix victory in his seventh start; he became the 13th driver to win at the track in 21 races there.
• Elliott Sadler restarted third on the final green flag after taking two tires on a Lap 164 stop.
• This was the 57th career victory for Richard Childress Racing.
• Brad Keselowski (second) matched his best Phoenix finish set last fall; he's finished in the top five in six of his past seven PIR starts.
• Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (third) has top-10 finishes in 10 of the past 11 races and has never finished outside of the top 10 in five career PIR starts.
• Austin Dillon (fourth) has top-10 finishes in his past five Nationwide starts.
• Kevin Harvick (fifth) led all drivers with 107 laps led; he has finished 10th or better in his past 14 starts at Phoenix.
• Sam Hornish Jr. (sixth) took only fuel on his final pit stop and has finished in the top 10 in four of the past five races.

Danica Patrick qualified 30th and finished 21st, three laps down.