Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 11 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), earned a fifth-place finish in the Sam’s Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The top-five finish was the 48th of Sadler’s Nationwide Series career and it came in his milestone 200th start.
Steady rain on Friday forced the cancelation of Saturday morning’s qualifying session, with NASCAR opting for a 1-hour practice session instead. As a result, the 40-car field for the 200-lap race around the 1.5-mile oval was set per the NASCAR rule book. That placed Sadler’s No. 11 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry 15th on the starting grid.
From the drop of the green flag, Sadler was able to work his way forward, despite a loose-handling racecar. Crew chief Chris Gayle called for a track bar adjustment, along with routine service of four tires and fuel on the team’s first pit stop. Lightning-quick work by the Interstate Batteries crew advanced Sadler to eighth.
As the race continued under green-flag conditions, Sadler continued to make his presence known, recording lap times equal to and sometimes faster than the race leaders. A strong charge over the final quarter of the event saw Sadler running as high as third at lap 187. While Sadler was able to get to the position, he wasn’t able to hold onto it for the finish.
“I think Chris (Gayle) is learning a lot about me and what we need to do with these cars between practice and the race,” said Sadler, who finished fifth a week ago at Phoenix International Raceway. “He made good adjustments today as the race went on. We’ll continue to learn and move on. But, we’re not going to complain with two top-five finishes this early in the season. I really had a chance at a third-place finish, I just couldn’t get cleared of the No. 6 car (Trevor Bayne). But, we’ll take it and learn.
“I’m just so proud of everybody on this Interstate Batteries team. I really wanted to get that win for these guys. We’ll take a top-five. I think we’ll keep learning and we’ll try to improve on it next week at Bristol.”
Sadler’s JGR teammates – Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 54 Toyota Camry, and Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry – finished second and third, respectively.
Sam Hornish Jr., won the Sam’s Town 300 to score his second career Nationwide Series victory, his first of the season and his first at Las Vegas.
Busch finished 1.1 seconds behind Hornish in the runner-up spot, while Vickers, Bayne and Sadler rounded out the top-five. Austin Dillon, Regan Smith, Alex Bowman, Brian Scott and Travis Pastrana comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 37 laps, with six drivers failing to finish.
With round three of 33 complete, Sadler leads the JGR contingent in the championship point standings. He advanced one spot to third and has 108 points, 19 back of series leader Hornish. Vickers gained five positions to climb to seventh and has 96 points, 31 behind Hornish. Busch is a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver and does not earn points in the Nationwide Series.
The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the March 16 Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 300 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN2 beginning with its pre-race show at 1:30 p.m.