RICHMOND, Va. — It may have been quiet, but a solid fifth-place finish was more than enough for Elliott Sadler to clinch the NASCAR XFINITY Series regular season championship Friday night at Richmond Raceway.
Sadler started 11th but methodically worked his way through traffic throughout the night, and buoyed by a strong pit stop before the start of the third and final stage, ultimately charged into third when the green flag flew with 89 to go.
As tire wear became more prevalent throughout a caution-free run to the finish, Sadler slipped to fifth, but hung on for his 10th top-five and 18th top-10 finish of the season in 25 starts.
With a 95-point cushion over JR Motorsports teammate William Byron, Sadler was able to clinch the 15 playoff points that come with the regular season title, closing the gap as he prepares to make a run at his first XFINITY Series championship when the playoffs kick off at Kentucky Speedway on Sept. 23.
“Man, I’m so proud of my guys,” said Sadler after climbing from his No. 1 OneMain Financial Chevrolet. “We have a really good, strong program this year and the last month or so we’ve run really well … especially on the ovals. To come here to Richmond and get a top five and secure our regular season championship is fantastic for this whole team.”
Sadler now has 20 playoff points in his bank with one race to go in the regular season, and cited how important he feels the bonus points for the regular season will really be when the battle for the championship begins.
“Fifteen bonus points is a lot,” he expressed. “We are ready to go! We are getting ourselves in playoff form. We are fired up and ready to go. To come into Richmond … you always want to win at your home track, but to be in the top-five and run as well as we have been; I’m very happy with that.”
The one glaring omission on Sadler’s season resume is a win, which he has been close to, but has not quite been able to seal the deal.
His season-best of second came at both Talladega Superspeedway in May and Daytona Int’l Speedway in July, but Sadler has made up for it by leading the championship standings after all but two races this year.
The 42-year-old from Emporia, Va. says that’s not good enough, though. He feels that in order to win the championship in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway, race wins are going to be a necessity.
“I think you’re going to have to win some races in the playoffs,” Sadler said. “We know that. We have had some cars in the season that could have won a couple of races. The breaks just haven’t gone our way and cautions haven’t gone our way. I’ve made some mistakes too, like at Darlington last week when I was trying to get myself in position (to win).”
“The cars have been fast and we’ve been very consistent. Our pit stops have been great. We’ve got the total package; the driver’s just got to put it together for an entire weekend. We’re close, though. We’ll have a shot; I can promise you that.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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