It isn't how you start, but how you finish.
After earning three straight poles at Iowa Speedway, Elliott Sadler finally has a finish to match.
Sadler passed Justin Allgaier with 58 laps remaining and pulled away to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250 on Saturday night at the 0.875-mile oval. The triumph was his fourth this season, setting a personal best for wins in a year.
Sadler gave a victory yell on the radio and jogged over to grab the checkered flag for his achievement. He talked about redemption after last week's incident at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he was penalized for beating the leader to the start/finish line during a late restart.
"It's been a rough week," Sadler said. "We felt like we should have won that race last week."
His father underwent knee surgery but provided his son with some motivational words for his race at Iowa. Sadler took the advice to heart and claimed his second win in three weeks.
"He said do not let them take this championship away from you," Sadler said. "Go to Iowa and kick their butts."
Sadler, who increased the one-point season points lead over Austin Dillon to 18, led 60 laps, after surrendering the lead to Darrell Wallace Jr. on the opening lap. Wallace, making his second Nationwide start after placing ninth in his series debut at Iowa Speedway in May, came in seventh, leading the first 37 laps before Dillon took over.
"I didn't really like not leading the first lap but that's not the one that pays the money," Sadler said. "We learned what we had to learn and we moved on from it. I felt like my restarts the rest of the race were pretty good."
Sadler was able to briefly gain the lead from Dillon, his Richard Childress Racing teammate, off the restart, following a competition caution on lap 50. The second caution when John Blankenship spun out 87 laps in jumbled the front-runners. Allgaier benefited from a fast pit stop to take the lead, while Dillon dropped to 10th and Sadler fell to eighth.
Sadler fell back again after a pit stop during the third caution for debris on the track, but he maneuvered through the field before overtaking Allgaier late.
"I had a hard time passing (Allgaier)," Sadler said. "He knew where my car was fast.
"He just got a little loose off of turn 4 and that particular lap I got a really good bite under him. . . . Once we got out front, I knew we were in really good shape."
The win capped a huge day for RCR. Team owner Richard Childress was at Pocono Raceway for Joey Coulter's win in the Pocono Mountains 125 on Saturday afternoon. He joined Sadler in Victory Lane at Iowa Speedway later that night. Adding to the impressive day, Sadler and Dillon hold the top two spots in Nationwide points.
"That was great," Childress said of the day. "You get two wins in one day, let's hope tomorrow we can cap it off and make it a full sweep with a third one."
Childress had faith Sadler would come through with the win, praising his passes of Kurt Busch for second before taking the lead from Allgaier.
"I couldn't be prouder of him," Childress said. "Elliott got up on the wheel when he had to get up on the wheel."
Allgaier, who has 13 top-10 finishes in 2012, recorded his best finish of the season, placing second. He set a personal best, leading 101 laps of a Nationwide race. His previous best was 88 laps led.
"To come here and lead most laps, and run as good as we did I was proud of that," Allgaier said. "It's tough to see Elliott out there and know you're catching him and there's not really much you can do."
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had won three straight Nationwide races at Iowa Speedway, but couldn't make a push for the lead. He suffered problems with tire grip after starting 11th and finished fifth. Stenhouse held his third-place spot in points, falling to 21 back of Sadler but closing to three points behind Dillon.
Sam Hornish Jr. won the final Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus as the program from series sponsor Nationwide drew to a close. He placed third, finishing one spot of Des Moines native Michael Annett.
Annett remained sixth in points, trailing Allgaier by 26, and placed a few spots ahead of fellow Iowan Brett Moffitt, who made his Nationwide Series debut Saturday.
Moffitt placed ninth, one spot ahead of where he started. He viewed the night as just another race, but was happy with the performance.
"It was a lot of fun," Moffitt said. "I got a lot of experience racing with the cars. These things racing around other cars, they're really aero dependent, so it's a lot harder racing around other cars. I learned a lot, so that was good."
Brad Sweet was the highest finishing rookie, placing 12th.
1. Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 250, $82,143.
2. Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 250, $59,043.
3. Sam Hornish Jr., Dodge, 250, $46,068.
4. Michael Annett, Ford, 250, $36,768.
5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 250, $34,843.
6. Michael McDowell, Toyota, 250, $28,543.
7. Darrell Wallace Jr., Toyota, 250, $27,428.
8. Jason Leffler, Chevrolet, 250, $26,388.
9. Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 250, $25,293.
10. Ryan Blaney, Dodge, 250, $25,243.
11. Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 250, $26,718.
12. Brad Sweet, Chevrolet, 250, $24,243.
13. Johanna Long, Chevrolet, 250, $22,718.
14. Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 250, $22,193.
15. Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 249, $22,843.
16. Joe Nemechek, Toyota, 249, $21,518.
17. Kurt Busch, Toyota, 249, $14,825.
18. Brian Scott, Toyota, 249, $21,043.
19. Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 249, $20,818.
20. Mike Bliss, Toyota, 248, $14,800.
29. Jason Bowles, Toyota, 238, $19,418.
35. Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Brakes, 24, $12,235.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 115.622 mph.
Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 53 Mins, 31 Secs.
Margin of Victory: 0.649 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 3 for 16 laps.
Lead Changes: 6 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: E. Sadler 0; D. Wallace Jr. 1-36; A. Dillon 37-56; E. Sadler 57-58; A. Dillon 59-91; J. Allgaier 92-192; E. Sadler 193-250.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led)
J. Allgaier 1 time for 101 laps
E. Sadler 2 times for 60 laps
A. Dillon 2 times for 53 laps
D. Wallace Jr. 1 time for 36 laps
Top 10 in Points
1. E. Sadler - 751
2. A. Dillon R - 733
3. R. Stenhouse Jr. - 730
4. S. Hornish Jr. - 717
5. J. Allgaier - 673
6. M. Annett - 647
7. C. Whitt R - 602
8. M. Bliss - 548
9. B. Scott - 486
10. D. Patrick - 485
14. J. Bowles R - 434
17. J. Long R - 315
NASCAR PR, photo courtesy of NASCARmedia.com
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