Elliott Sadler declared winner after wild XFINITY finish at ‘Dega
Elliott Sadler was declared the winner in a wild, wreck-filled, controversial finish in Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway.
But it took a several minutes after the race was over before NASCAR could figure that out and make Sadler’s victory in the XFINITY Series official.
"People don’t know how hard it is to win this races," said Sadler, who drives the No. 1 Chevroet for JR Motorsports, which is owned in part by Sprint Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. "It’s very emotional. Dale Jr. gave me a great opportunity to come work for him, and I’ve got one heck of a race team."
Sadler’s win, the 11th in his career in the series, was far from clear-cut.
Rookie Brennan Poole appeared to cross the start-finish line first and thought he had scored the first win of his career, coming onto his team radio and shouting: "Oh my God, I think I might have puked!"
Poole probably felt even worse shortly thereafter, when NASCAR ruled after checking videotape that the yellow caution light had come out with Sadler in the lead after Sadler had barrelled into then-leader Joey Logano, the result of Logano appearing to get slightly overaggressive in his attempts to block Sadler.
As Logano spun back into the onrushing field, his No. 22 Team Penske Ford got broadsided by the No. 11 car of Blake Koch, which then caught fire.
"We crashed pretty hard," Logano said after getting checked out in the infield care center afterward. "It is just typical superspeedway racing … racing for the win at the end. I know Elliott is a great speedway racer and he knew what he had to do to win the race, and I knew I what I had to do to try to keep him behind me.
"He went to make the move on the top and then he pulled it down to the bottom and got underneath me, and then I was a little late to the block. He was already there. Around I went and hit a bunch of other stuff along the way."
Just seconds earlier, it had appeared the Logano was a lock for the win.
A spin by Jeb Burton brought out the final caution with three laps remaining in the regularly-scheduled 113-lap portion of the race, necessitating a green-white-checkered finish when Logano had been out front and seemingly in position to win.
That followed an earlier caution flag that came out for debris with nine laps to go, causing Logano to joke to his team over the radio: "I’m getting the idea maybe they don’t want me to win today."
Earlier, also while leading, Logano got called to pit road by NASCAR for a loose roof rail that had broken and needed to be fixed, costing him the lead and valuable track position that he had to work feverishly to make up.
But after Logano raced back to the lead on the final restart, he got turned while trying to block Sadler, causing a wreck that cost Logano the win and brought out the yellow to freeze the field with Sadler in the lead — even though Poole went on to cross the start-finish line first, causing the rookie to think he had won instead.
He didn’t because NASCAR ruled he wasn’t in the lead when the yellow light came on, freezing the field. That made the fact that Poole crossed the finish line first irrelevant.
Matt Tifft, who started from the pole, led 22 laps and Brandon Jones led a race-high 36. Logano led 19.
But in the end, it was Sadler who celebrated in Victory Lane on his 41st birthday, snapping a 65-race winless streak in the series.
Justin Allgaier was credited with finishing second, followed by Poole, Jeremy Clements and Brendan Gaughan. Logano ended up in 27th.
Poole was humble in his post-race interview, telling FOX Sports: "It’s just really cool to have an opportunity at a win. I thought we were way to the good, but congrats to Elliott."