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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]
Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, catches fire during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, races Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. With him are Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS who finished second, and Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet SS who finished in third place. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, waves to fans after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, picks up the victory flag Sunday, May 3, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, and his crew chief, Greg Ives, celebrate in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, is congratulated by Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. Johnson finished second behind Earnhardt, Jr. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, and Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #6 Sponge Bob Square Pants Ford, wreck during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Ryan Reed, driver of the #16 Lilly/American Diabetes Association Ford, Kenny Wallace, driver of the #26 JGL Racing Toyota, Ryan Sieg, driver of the #39 Uncle Bob`s Self Storage Chevrolet, and John Wes Townley, driver of the #25 Zaxby`s Chevrolet, are involved in an on track incident during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Bit-O-Honey Ford, and Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, lead the field in a restart during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, watches crew members work on his car after an incident during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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