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Nationwide: Sadler, RCR back in victory lane

Elliott Sadler returned to victory lane in the Nationwide Series for the first time since 1998 after a late pit stop strategy call shot him to the front.
Elliott Sadler hasn't been in victory lane in a Nationwide Series race since October 31 1998, but that didn't mean he needed any directions to the celebrations after claiming the chequered flag in the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.

It was also just as much of a statement of intent from his team, Richard Childress Racing, which returned to the series this season after buying back the Kevin Harvick, Inc. Nationwide operation at the end of 2011.

Sadler's win was set up by a perfectly judged pit stop strategy by crew chief Luke Lambert call during the final caution, which enabled him to go on to take the lead on lap 174 and then ease out enough of a lead over Brad Keselowski to give him sufficient margin to make it to the finish line despite running into traffic in the closing laps.

Before that final round of stops it looked like the race was owned by Sadler's team mate Kevin Harvick who had initially taken over the lead after the first restart of the day for a debris caution on lap 43. Up till then polesitter Denny Hamlin had been looking comfortable in front save for four early laps that boasted Trevor Bayne in the lead.

Harvick held the top spot over Hamlin through to the second yellow of the day on lap 104, triggered by Kenny Wallace having a tyre fail on him that sent him into the wall. Hamlin had the faster pit stop under the ensuing caution and took the lead for the restart, but once again Harvick was quick to take over when the green flag came out. He seemed untouchable right through to lap 164, when the final caution came out for debris and pit stop strategy proved decisive - with Harvick going on the wrong side of the call.

Harvick's choice to go for four tyres and fuel while everyone else around him went for two tyres or fuel-only dropped him down to seventh place for that final restart. He had expected to be able to use his fresh set of tyres to power his way back to the front, but instead found himself caught up in a near-accident when Kasey Kahne hit the wall hard on lap 169. Harvick had to take a daring line across the dogleg infield apron to avoid being hit by Kahne on the rebound, and the scare seemed to take the shine off the #33's performance for the remainder of the day.

That left Sadler with the chance to power his way to the front ahead of Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and while Harvick tried to fight his way back into contention he ended up losing out to another RCR team mate, rookie Austin Dillon, in the battle for fourth place at the line.

With only three yellow flags all day, and the leaders very fast on the one mile tri-oval, it hadn't taken long for half the field to be pushed off the lead lap. The lack of cautions also meant that few had any opportunity to get back on equal footing for the rest of the race. Danica Patrick was among those having a nondescript day, finishing three laps down by the chequered flag.

Kyle Busch - who won this event last year for Joe Gibbs Racing after leading every lap - was finding it altogether tougher going in his newly-launched Kyle Busch Motorsports Nationwide team, especially running year-old equipment. He ran as high up as third on lap 56 but then ended up scraping the wall coming out of turn 2; while he was able to carry on, it took the edge off the #54 and he finished down in 11th place just behind Michael Annett who had had his own encounter with the wall on lap 114.




Related Pictures

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Coors Light Pole Award winner Denny Hamlin take the American Ethanol Green Flag at the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Basha`s Supermarkets 200 on Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. [Picture Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images]
Kenny Wallace brings out a caution after hitting the wall following a blown tire on Saturday in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Basha`s Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. [Picture Credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Elliott Sadler celebrates after winning in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for the first time since 1998 following the Basha`s Supermarkets 200 on Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. [Picture Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images]
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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