22 July 2012
Nationwide: Sadler revived by Chicago win
Stenhouse, Kligerman, Hornish and Dillon had all duly cycled through when the fourth caution came out, for a second spin of the day for Brad Sweet. That was exactly what those early stoppers didn't want to see as they were now a lap down; while Stenhouse got the lap back by virtue of being in the lucky dog position, it still demoted him to the back of the lead lap in 10th place, 16th in line with all the lapped traffic to attend to after having led 135 of the 165 laps so far and just 35 to go.
That left Sadler and Allgaier leading at the restart ahead of Ryan Truex, Kyle Busch and Kenny Wallace. It might have been 'luck' getting the caution at precisely the right moment, but it was the sort of luck resulting from their earlier solid strategy laid down by Luke Lambert: and the restart also confirmed that the team had finally nailed Sadler's ongoing handling issues, as he shot away into a huge lead leaving a messy scramble over the rest of the top six positions.
And Sadler clearly needed to put his foot down, because Stenhouse had taken to the high line to run around the midfield traffic he was now caught up in, and was soon making rapid progress through the field. He finally passed Justin Allgaier for second place on lap 184, but Sadler's early breakaway meant that the #6 was still two seconds behind the leader and time was running out.
Stenhouse kept at it and had the gap to Sadler down to just a second on lap 192, but time was running out and it seemed that he badly needed a late caution to reset the race and give him a shot at taking Sadler at the restart. And this time luck was on his side, and on lap 192 the fifth caution of the day came out.
It was caused by Sam Hornish Jr. running up to the back of Kyle Busch and Brendan Gaughan who were running side-by-side in a close battle for ninth place. Hornish intended to duck down underneath them both, but he badly misjudged it and clouted the back of Busch's car, sending the #54 hard into Gaughan and trapping the #33 against the wall in an accident that did heavy damage to both race cars.
"I feel real bad about it," said a contrite Hornish after the race. ""I looked down because it looked like one of our hood pins was coming loose, then I looked up and got right into the back of Kyle's car."
Once that mess was cleaned up, it put the race into green-white-chequered overtime: Stenhouse would have his chance after all. But restarts and the first couple of laps under green hadn't exactly been the #6's forté all afternoon, so Sadler knew he still had a decent chance of pulling this off. His odds of winning were dramatically improved when Justin Allgaier starting behind him deided to give Sadler a push for all he was worth, and the two broke away from Stenhouse who found himself under pressure from Kenny Wallace.
Stenhouse regrouped, dropped Wallace - but found his way forward blocked by a determinedly intransigent Allgaier, while all the time Sadler was receding ever further into the distance. Stenhouse took to the highest of lines and was nearly crushed into the wall by Allgaier still trying to defend his position, but finally the position was conceded and Stenhouse had second. But it was too late to do anything about first - Sadler had already claimed the chequered flag.
"At the end, we just couldn't hold off Ricky," said Allgaier. "We were trying to get to Elliott and working both the high and low line."
"We were in the right place at the right time," said Sadler of his race. "Ricky had the strongest car all day, but we kept working at it and eventually got into the right position.
Sam Hornish Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
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