Make it four-for-four by NASCAR Nationwide Series regulars, and make it history. Using the pit strategy that took him to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory at Bristol in 2001, Elliott Sadler stayed out on the final caution to win the Ford EcoBoost 300 by 1.159 seconds over Kasey Kahne. Brad Keselowski, polesitter Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five.
Sadler’s victory marks the first time since the series was established in 1982 that series regulars have won the first four races of the season. Regulars won the three of the first four races in 1995, but Kenny Wallace won the third race of the season at Richmond after opening the season as a Cup regular, though on a limited schedule.
In the early laps of the race, Logano took advantage of his pole position, jumping out to lead the first 66 laps before Kyle Busch took the point on lap 67. Busch led the next 40 circuits. The race was a clean one, with only four caution flags in the air. The first didn’t come until lap 106, when Joey Gase slapped the turn 4 wall.
Logano regained the race lead on the subsequent round of pit stops and led another 53 laps before the caution flew for the second time on lap when Sam Hornish Jr. spun in turn 2. Logano gave up the race lead to Tennessee native and crowd favorite Trevor Bayne in the pits.
Bayne, who wasn’t even entered in the race until earlier this week, held the point for the next 63 laps, through the third caution, which came out for a TJ Bell wreck coming off of turn 4. Bayne finally relinquished the lead on lap 223 after a heated battle with his Roush Fenway teammate, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after Bayne’s No. 60 faded a bit. Bayne finished eighth.
Stenhouse held the point for the next 40 laps, but gave it up on the final round of pit stops under yellow when the fourth caution came out for Kyle Busch, who smacked the turn 4 wall. That’s when Sadler made his move, staying out along with Kahne in a make-or-break strategy. And just like it did for in that 2001 Cup race, it made Sadler’s day.
Kevin Harvick came out of the pits first on the final stop and looked to have a shot at running down Sadler, but a speeding penalty moved Harvick to the end of the lead lap. Harvick was one of five drivers to be penalized for being too fast on pit road during the race. Stenhouse finished sixth, and Justin Allgaier, Bayne, Harvick and Ryan Truex complete the top 10.
Sadler leaves Bristol with not only the trophy, but also with the points lead. Sadler leads the Nationwide Series standings by 25 points over Stenhouse. Bayne is just four behind Stenhouse, but still not assured of a full schedule due to sponsorship woes. Austin Dillon is just a single point behind Bayne in fourth, and Cole Whitt is another 11 points in arrears to Dillon, 41 behind Sadler. Hornish, Tayler Malsam, Michael Annett, Allgaier and Mike Bliss round out the top 10 in the standings.
About the author
Content Director Beth heads up management of our 30-person staff, acting as Tom’s main assistant with technology and personnel while working as Frontstretch’s Truck Series expert. The author of Truckin’ Thursdays and the coordinator of the site’s pre and post-race coverage, she also runs a periodic charity column that spotlights when NASCAR gives back. A childhood transplant to Texas, Beth is a 15-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.
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