With just 100 laps to go, it looked like it’d be the Roush-Fenway Racing show as Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were battling for the lead. However, a caution with 35 laps to go changed the whole ending of the race. While most of the leaders pitted, Elliott Sadler stayed out and was able to hold off the field to win the race.
“This beats my wildest dreams to win two of the first four races,” Sadler says. “I definately love this place and look forward to coming here every time.” Sadler added that this win is a little extra special as it’s the first victory that his parents have been there to witness.
The caution came out as Kyle Busch had a brake duck break, littering debris all over the track.
The win gives Sadler his second win in the first four races of the season after going winless all last year.
Before this season, Sadler last Nationwide Series win was in 1998 while his last Bristol win was in the Sprint Cup Series in 2001.
“We were watching the highlights of the race when I won and Luke turned to me and said, ‘Hey, I was 15 at the time’,” Sadler tells the story. “Just shows you how long it’s been.”
Lambert added that he was sitting in the grandstands on that day with his father.
When crew chief Luke Lambert first made the call, Sadler was slightly worried about how it’d work out. Lambert then reminded Sadler that of how he won the previous race at Bristol.
“We knew it was going to come down to who was out front at the end and felt that with tires, we’d be traffic,” Lambert says. “It’s just great that it worked out how it did. I’m very proud of Elliott.”
Lambert was partnered with Sadler for the 2012 season after Richard Childress saw the type of crew chief Sadler was needing.
“I’m really proud of the whole One Main team,” Childress says. “Elliott just did a super job. He can work through traffic here as good as anybody. Luke made a great call at the end. He got up on the wheel. Just proud of this team.”
Sadler says the difference for him, personally, is having a car owner that believes in him.
“When you have a car owner like Richard that believes in you, it makes all the difference in the world to your self-confidence,” he says. “It makes you a whole different person. I feel that compared to three, four years ago, I’m a whole different person mentally and physically.”
Kasey Kahne, who stayed out with Sadler, would come home second, followed by Brad Keselowski and pole sitter Joey Logano.
“I am sure a lot of people will make a lot about Elliott staying out there, but he had a fast car,” Keselowski says. “You can’t say he won that on strategy.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. came home after finishing fifth with a car that was loose all day.
“It was a lot of fun driving this car this weekend,” he says. “There wasn’t too much craziness out there. I was pleased with the speed the car had. We were fast all weekend. We took two tires on that last stop, and it was just a little too tight there at the end to really gain on the cars in front of us. I had fun racing Joey (Logano) there at the end. He was faster than we were, and I know he wanted to get up there and see if he had anything to Brad and Kasey in front of us. It was the end of the race and I was fighting for everything I could get. It was a good clean race (with Joey), and I had a lot of fun.”
Stenhouse Jr. would finish sixth after leading 64 laps, followed by Justin Allgaier, Trevor Bayne, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Truex.
“Jack’s got two stout teams here running hard, and two drivers that are hopefully the future for his company,” Bayne says. “That is what we want to be. Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) and I push each other hard and we did both lead laps and hopefully he is proud of that.”
Austin Dillon would be the highest finishing rookie in 12th. Danica Patrick would bring her St. Patrick’s Day themed Go Daddy Chevrolet home in the 19th position, two laps down after starting 27th.
With Sadler winning this race, he keeps the streak going of Nationwide-only drivers winning races this season. Childress says this is in part due to the new points system with how they award points to series-only drivers.
Sadler adds that its builds the confidence in beating the Cup guys and adds, “The more races we can win as Nationwide regulars, the better it is for the series.” It’s also big for the sport as “Nationwide is always looking for their identity. I think Nationwide Insurance is always looking to promote their own drivers.”