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- Dropping the Hammer with Elliott Sadler
Rejuvenated Elliott Sadler Scores Kentucky Win
- Updated: September 25, 2016
The first race of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase for the Championship played out like a prize fight.
In fact, a few drivers may have been ready to fight at the end, as the dominant driver Erik Jones, and Ty Dillon, one of just a handful of drivers that could run with Jones, tangled with 13 laps to go. As they were exiting turn four, Jones and Dillon made contact, as the two Chase drivers not only saw the win go out the window, but a major hit in their title hopes occurred as well.
Dillon’s team would attempt repairs on the No. 3 car but NASCAR informed them to put it in the garage as there was too much damage. As for Jones, it was right to the garage, ending a disappointing night and as he would say, “This hurts. This race was one we had circled. We needed to leave here with a win and take advantage of only the one Cup regular in the field.”
Jones’ Kentucky result leaves them with a very steep hill to climb.
That one Cup regular that Jones spoke of was Ryan Blaney, who at several points during the race, was the fastest car on the track. However, the late race restarts hurt the driver of the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford, especially the final one, when he spun his tires.
This opened the doors for Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez to scoot away, leaving Blaney wondering what could have been.
As for Elliott Sadler, he leaves the Bluegrass State with a one way ticket to the Round of 8. Sadler picked up his third win of the season, logging his 24th top 10 finish as well.
Sadler said that he was nervous in the middle portions of the race after some contact and getting shuffled back as far as 20th in the running order. Ultimately, attrition was high tonight, as a record 11 cautions and one red flag flew.
It was an added special race for Sadler as he was racing for his mom, who is dealing with multiple surgeries. Sadler said she asked to leave the ICU since they didn’t have NBCSN and couldn’t watch her son. He added, if she can fight, so can I.
He added that this win was much more special than some of his earlier wins.
“We were 21st after having to fix some damage to the news,” Sadler said. “We fought together, we win together, we lose together.”
It’s like Sadler has become something of a rejuvenated driver. In fact, he joked, “You guys are talking about me being in the prime of my career, or getting older. I think I found the Fountain of Youth.”
Whatever Sadler has found, it’s working and he heads to Dover relaxed while the rest of the field should be concerned with trying to land a Round of 8 Chase spot. Refreshed and fast could spell “No Title For You” for the rest of the XFINITY Series Chasers, especially with how hard they raced and will need to race in desperation moving forward.
Some fans questioned the Chase in the XFINITY Series, but if the Chase ramps up the quality of racing week in and out as it did tonight, it’s a win-win, no matter who takes home the title.
It’s not often that we see a battle for the lead over a 20 lap period and they did that on multiple occasion on Saturday night at Kentucky. Sure, it was catalyzed by the record number of cautions as cautions tend to breed cautions and they give birth to restarts.
No matter what the case was, nose to tail, working the outside line, making pivotal adjustments, it was quality racing that NASCAR needed.
While Sadler will enjoy the fruits and labor of his Kentucky win, the rest of his Chase rivals and the XFINITY Series field will ramp up their level of competition next weekend at Dover. While the youth may be leading the way, it’s a younger feeling driver who is sitting at the top of the standings.