News & Media

Title contenders survive wild weekend in Montreal

August 20, 2012, Mark Aumann,

MONTREAL -- Dillon, Sadler leave with top-10s and are ready to get back to oval racing

Justin Allgaier was ecstatic after winning Saturday's NAPA Auto Parts 200, but the smiles on the faces of Elliott Sadler and Austin Dillon in the garage area afterward were nearly as wide, because their strategy of "playing it safe" paid huge dividends.

All of the contenders for this season's Nationwide Series championship had been concerned about getting through Montreal without damaging their title hopes. Sadler and Dillon knew they couldn't do anything to win the championship at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but a disastrous race might lose it.

All good for Allgaier

Justin Allgaier snuck a Montreal win right from under the nose of native son Jacques Villeneuve, winning his first race of the Nationwide season in thrilling fashion.

NAPA Auto Parts 200

2.Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge
3.Jacques Villeneuve Dodge
4.Elliott Sadler Chevrolet
5.Ron Fellows Chevrolet

Sadler and Dillon somehow dodged most of the late-race carnage to post solid top-10 finishes. And when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun while chasing Jacques Villeneuve for the lead and eventually wound up 12th, it allowed Sadler to not only hold onto the points lead but build on it.

Sadler admitted his goal this weekend wasn't to win as much as survive. And he did more than that, finishing fourth.

"It's just different racing," Sadler said. "Everybody's on different agendas and you've got to understand some of these road course guys aren't racing for points, they're racing for wins. And when you're racing them, you can't put yourself in a tough position. You've just got to know who you're racing on these road courses.

"I may have been able to race a little more aggressive at the end, but it's a risk versus reward. I could have gained maybe one point but maybe could have lost 20. I was a little conservative there on that last lap or two."

Sadler said he and crew chief Luke Lambert looked at previous Montreal races and realized that a conservative fuel strategy -- taking into consideration that there was a better-than-average chance the race would go longer than the advertised 72-lap distance -- would be beneficial.

"I'm just glad we made it back to the finish," Sadler said. "It's always wild here at Montreal, especially at the end.

"Montreal always creates green-white-checkered finishes, so Luke and I sat down this morning and said, 'OK, we're going to play this strategy a little bit differently and make sure we've got enough gas for the end where we have no problems at all.' Some of the other guys were tight on fuel."

In Dillon's pit, fuel was very much a concern in the closing laps. He had stopped on the same lap as Villeneuve and Brian Scott, who were both trying to make it to the finish. So the decision was made to bring him in and give up track position, hoping he could get some of those positions back.

And the strategy worked to perfection, as Dillon tip-toed through several spins and near-misses to finish ninth.

"Running for a championship, we couldn't chance [staying out]," Dillon said. "We came down and got four tires and fuel and made it through all the chaos. Taking a top-10 for us is huge, especially after a crazy weekend."

Montreal was yet another learning experience for Dillon, who admitted he worries too much about what's happening around him and not staying focused on hitting his marks and not driving to overdrive the car.

"Right now, it's more learning and growing as a road course driver," Dillon said. "I've never done it in my life and the whole basics of how to race someone [is so different]. Then at the end, it's almost like short-track racing.

"During the race, that's where I've got to figure it out a lot more. I worry too much about what's behind me sometimes and I get to wheel-hopping and doing some dumb mistakes. I'm happy with our day. This was great for our team."

Now that the road courses are in the rear-view mirror, both Dillon and Sadler can concentrate on the rest of the schedule -- and the championship.

"I'm glad this is the last one," Sadler said. "We'll get back to real hometown racing -- what I'm used to -- next week at Bristol."

"The fun part now is we've got 11 ovals to go to and we're going to go have fun with nothing to lose," Dillon added. "We're going to attack, attack, attack. Now we're going to win and gain points the big way."