Crash hurts teammates' slim title hopes
October 11, 2013, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
CONCORD, N.C. -- The slim NASCAR Nationwide Series title hopes of Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers took a major hit Friday night in an odd crash early on in the Dollar General 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The result was a collision between teammates, two damaged Toyotas and a tumble further down the standings with just three races left in the season after Friday’s 300-miler.
Sadler, the championship runner-up the past two seasons, finished 36th in the 40-car field and dropped one position to fifth in the standings. Correspondingly, the deficit to series leader Austin Dillon ballooned from 43 to 78 points.
Vickers’ crash-marred 31st-place finish docked him two places in the standings to eighth, 97 points behind Dillon in the season’s homestretch.
The unusual chain reaction occurred in the 52nd of 200 laps when Reed Sorenson clipped the infield grass and spun down the front straightaway on the 1.5-mile track. Sorenson’s Ford smacked the outside wall near the entrance to Turn 1 and veered toward the bottom end of the track, into the path of Vickers.
Vickers’ swerving evasive action onto the track apron collected the No. 11 car of teammate Sadler, who was exiting pit road after making a green-flag pit stop. All three cars slid to a stop with significant damage.
"Holy cow, we had a rocket ship and were making our way up to the front -- running really fast lap times," Sadler said. "Had no idea we were going to get hit on pit road like that and tear our car up. My spotter is telling me to go, that they're wrecking behind me, which I thought I was just racing the leader to the line. I had no idea they were going to hit me on pit road. Man, it's very frustrating. One of the most frustrating nights I've had in a long time, especially running the pink car here for breast cancer awareness."
Sadler and Vickers both drove away from the wreck site, but Sadler continued after some quick repairs on pit road. Just 13 laps later, however, Sadler’s car -- at an aerodynamic disadvantage without a left-rear fender -- was spinning again, forcing the team to go behind the wall for a more extensive fix.
"I shouldn’t have put you back out there without a quarter-panel," crew chief Chris Gayle told his driver over the team radio. "I was just trying to get to the next caution to where we could fix it. Didn’t know it’d be that bad."
Sadler, back in the garage while his crew went to work, was left to lament a hard hit in the championship battle.
"Man, just frustrating," Sadler said. "Just proud of my guys. Mainly we had a fast car, but that’s just weird luck that we had here tonight."