Elliott Sadler gave himself one of his most memorable birthday presents, winning his first Xfinity Series race in his last 66 starts in Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway.
But it was far from easy.
Sadler was involved in a wreck with Joey Logano coming to the finish line. Logano tried to block Sadler but they made contact, sending Logano’s car up the track into the SAFER barrier.
Sadler bounced off Logano’s car but maintained control. Even though he dipped below the double yellow line and into the grass, Sadler was in the lead at that point and NASCAR threw the yellow flag.
“I felt that was one of the best saves I’ve ever made in the grass to keep it straight,” Sadler told Fox Sports.
Brennan Poole crossed the finish line first, but NASCAR determined — after about a five-minute review — that Sadler was the leader when the caution waved.
“People don’t know how hard it is to win these races and it’s very emotional,” Sadler told Fox Sports, his voice cracking. “Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. gave me a great opportunity to come here and I have one heck of a race team.”
While disappointed at not getting the win, Poole was also happy for Sadler.
“It was really cool to be able to have an opportunity to have a win,” Poole said. “I thought we were way to the good, but that’s how it is. Congrats to Elliott. He’s a former Late Model stock guy like myself, so it was cool to see him win.”
Sadler’s win came at the same place as his last Xfinity victory: May 3, 2014 at Talladega. Saturday’s race was scheduled for 113 laps, but went three laps longer due to a late wreck on Lap 110 when Jeb Burton‘s spin brought out the caution.
Sadler’s teammate at JR Motorsports, Justin Allgaier, finished second, followed by Poole, Jeremy Clements and Brendan Gaughan.
MORE: Results from Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega
MORE: Sadler moves into tie with Suarez for Xfinity Series points lead
HOW SADLER WON: Sadler faked right and went left to try and get around race leader Joey Loganotried to block Sadler but lost control of his car, bounced off Sadler’s car and went head-on into the wall. Sadler maintained control of his car even though he was partly pushed into the grass and in the lead when NASCAR called the caution, freezing the field and giving the win to Sadler.
WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Even though he was first thought to be the winner, and had to wait for five minutes while NASCAR reviewed video to make a final determination, Brennan Poole wound up third, his first top-five. … Others having good races were Justin Allgaier, Jeremy Clements and Brendan Gaughan.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: There was a hard wreck on Lap 31 between Chris Cockrum and Joey Gase. Cockrum spun seven times after clipping the wall that juts out on Turn 2 in an area that allows safety crews to access the track. Both drivers were uninjured. … Erik Jones had a rare off day, finishing 22nd. Jones was clipped by Jeb Burton on the second-to-last caution and suffered damage to the right front of his car.
NOTABLE: Chase Elliott was forced to start at the back of the pack after missing driver introductions. … Logano went from the leader to a 27th-place finish after the wreck on the frontstretch coming to the start-finish line.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Great birthday gift to me, with my wife and kids here with me. We needed this win. I told everybody this morning we’ve got the car to win it, things went our way, we had a little luck and we were able to make it at the end.” – Elliott Sadler.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity Series is off next weekend. The next race will be Saturday, May 14, at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. ET).