RICHMOND, Va. — Elliott Sadler clinched the NASCAR XFINITY Series Regular Season Championship with his fifth-place finish in the Virginia529 College Savings 250 at Richmond Raceway.
Sadler entered the night with a 91-point edge over JR Motorsports teammate William Byron and needed to come out of the race ahead by at least 61 points in the standings. Sadler’s lead in the standings sits at 95 points after the Richmond race.
The regular-season crown gives Sadler 15 playoff points to add to the five he has already banked during the season. Those 20 points will be added to Sadler’s total at the start of the Round of 12 and the Round of 8 (should Sadler advance) in the XFINITY Series playoffs.
“Thank you for the 15 (playoff) points,” Sadler said. “… Something we had on our mind and wanted to work hard for this season. My team’s been very consistent and very fast. We’ve done very well with stage racing and to get 15 points that takes us not only to the first round and through multiple rounds (if advancing) getting to Homestead means a lot for our team.
“That means we can go to Chicago (site of the regular-season finale) and be aggressive and take some chances. We are going to use it as a preseason game to use the NFL analogy to kind of warm us up for Kentucky (where the playoff opener will take place). Feels very good to do it at Richmond of all places with my family and friends here,” the Emporia, Virginia native said.
The carry-over of playoff points from round to round provides a nice added cushion for Sadler. That was not lost on JR Motorsports co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., who himself finished ninth in Friday’s race.
“The playoff points are really important,” Earnhardt said. “Anything can happen in these rounds. Those may come in real handy if he gets into trouble somewhere. That’s good for Elliott. They worked hard all year and been strong all year.”
Sadler has three runner-up finishes in the XFINITY Series standings in the last six seasons, and the series championship has remained elusive for the 42-year-old — something Sadler would very much like to change in 2017.
“Last year, I let my emotions get too high probably sometimes and too low sometimes during the season and during the playoffs,” Sadler said of a postseason run in 2016 that saw him reach the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “I learned the hard way that it’s all about one race for me. It’s all about Homestead. It’s all about winning the championship. I want to get back to that position again.”
Three drivers locked up their playoff spots after the Richmond race: Jeremy Clements, Cole Custer and Matt Tifft. That trio will join Sadler, Byron, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Reed, Brennan Poole and Daniel Hemric in the postseason field. Three more spots are still to be decided in the regular-season finale at Chicagoland Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) next Saturday.