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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]
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, races to victory with third place finisher Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, Sunday, May 31, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. This was Johnson`s 10th win at Dover, his career 74th. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, takes the chequered flag, Sunday, May 31, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. This was Johnson`s 10th win at Dover, his career 74th. Following in second and third place are Kevin Harvick, driver of the # 4 DiTech Chevrolet SS and Kyle Larson, driver of the # 42 Target Chevrolet SS. (Photo by David Tullis/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 31, 2015 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, races Trevor Bayne, driver of the #6 AdvoCare Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 31, 2015 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Cares Toyota, races the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 31, 2015 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #6 Ford EcoBoost Ford, and Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Roush Performance Products Ford, lead the field to the green flag for the running of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Buckle Up 200 presented by Click It or Ticket at Dover International Speedway on May 30, 2015 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Cares Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 30, 2015 in Dover, Delaware (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Cares Toyota, left, poses with Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz and the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 29, 2015 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Cares Toyota, left, poses with Miss Coors Light Amanda Mertz and the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 29, 2015 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo Credit: Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 DiTech Chevrolet SS, qualified for sixth position, Friday, May 29, 2015, for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Harvick leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, qualified for third position, Friday, May 29, 2015, for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware. Larson is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, lead the field into turn one during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, finished in ninth place, Sunday, May 24, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished in third place, Sunday, May 24, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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