Nationwide Series - Elliott Sadler Post-Race Report
CONCORD, May 29, 2011: Elliott Sadler and the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet team started the Top Gear 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway this Saturday with momentum as the NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader. Sadler battled an ill-handling racecar throughout the 200-lap event before bringing home a 10th-place finish, earning his ninth top-10 finish of the season and maintaining his status as the series points leader.
Sadler started his day in the 10th position, and as the top-three competitors ran away from the field, the driver of the No. 2 settled into the ninth spot. Looking for rear grip on entry and exit, Sadler found that it was hard to run in his preferred line at the bottom of the racetrack.
A competition yellow waved on lap 25 with Sadler in the ninth position, and the leaders took to pit road for adjustments. The No. 2 OneMain Chevrolet came down for two right-side tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. The field came to the green on lap 30 with the team still in the ninth position.
The second caution flag was brought out quickly after the restart on lap 34 for an accident in turn three. Sadler, who lost two positions during the brief green-flag run, reported that the car was "way tight" in the middle but handling the same as the previous run on entry. Too soon to pit and lose track position, the team stayed out during the caution period and restarted on lap 38 in 11th place.
By lap 50, Sadler was fighting to find the line on the racetrack that worked for his OneMain Chevrolet Impala. Dropping a few positions, the team was running 14th, but still running similar speeds as the cars in the top five. On lap 67, Sadler communicated that he was still fighting loose conditions and was in need of rear grip on entry and exit.
When the third caution flag came out on lap 73, the OneMain Financial Chevrolet came down pit road for four tires, fuel and major chassis adjustments. With the extra time spent on pit road to try to improve the car's handling, Sadler restarted the race in the 23rd position on lap 78.
Oil was spotted on the track after the engine expired on the No. 81 car on lap 82, bringing out the fourth caution flag of the day. The adjustments made on the previous stop did not alleviate the handling issues and Sadler radioed that the OneMain machine was extremely loose. Crew chief Ernie Cope elected to call his driver down pit road to make additional chassis adjustments. The field restarted with 110 laps to go with Sadler in the 23rd position.
Sadler reported back to his KHI team on lap 97 that the handling was, unfortunately, much worse, but he continued to fight forward as the laps clicked by. Still battling an extremely loose-handling racecar, a long green-flag run was benefitting Sadler as he picked his way through the field to the 16th position. With green-flag pit stops on the horizon, the driver needed to come to pit road for final adjustments and fuel to make it to the end.
The No. 2 car was putting down lap times similar to those in the top five as green-flag pit stops began. As the field began to cycle through, Sadler brought his car in for service on lap 138. The team took four tires, fuel and made another chassis adjustment in a continued effort to get the handling of the OneMain Chevrolet just right for the driver. While making his stop on pit road, the team went down one lap to the leader and was sitting in the 15th position as the first car one lap down.
Luck was on their side, however, as the caution flag dropped for the final time on lap 148, providing Sadler with the free pass. With the car still too loose for the driver's liking, the KHI team brought the No. 2 back down pit road on lap 150 for fuel, the addition of tape on the grille and further chassis adjustments to help secure the handling. The field restarted on lap 154 with Sadler in the 14th position, still hoping to bring home a top-10 finish.
Sadler was able to pick up two positions as the field came to the white flag, and gained another two positions as two teams in front of the No. 2 ran out of fuel. The OneMain Financial Chevrolet took the checkered flag in 10th place and will head into Chicagoland Speedway as the series points leader.
"I have to say we are blessed to still be leading the points," said Sadler following the race. "Our team was trying to learn a few different things that we can use for the rest of the season. We were trying fix the handling there at the end, and we made it right when it counted. On the days when you are not happy with a 10th-place finish and are not happy with how the race went, having a team behind me like I do is great motivation for next weekend."
The Nationwide Series will hit the track next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway on June 4 for the STP 300 under the lights at 8:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.