NEWTON, Iowa — It isn’t how you start, but how you finish.
After earning three straight poles at Iowa Speedway, Elliott Sadler finally has a finish to match.
Sadler passed Justin Allgaier with 58 laps remaining and pulled away to win the U.S. Cellular 250 on Saturday night at the 0.875-mile oval. It was his fourth victory this season, setting a career best for wins in a year.
Sadler gave a victory yell on the radio and jogged to grab the checkered flag. He talked about redemption after last week’s incident at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he was penalized for beating the leader to the start/finish line during a late restart.
“It’s been a rough week,” Sadler said. “We felt like we should have won that race last week.”
His father underwent knee surgery but provided his son with some motivational words for his race at Iowa. Sadler took the advice to heart and claimed his second win in three weeks.
“He said do not let them take this championship away from you,” Sadler said. “Go to Iowa and kick their butts.”
Sadler, who increased his one-point lead over Austin Dillon in the standings to 18, led 60 laps. He surrendered the lead to Darrell Wallace Jr. on the opening lap. Wallace, making his secondNationwide Series start after placing ninth in his May debut at Iowa, came in seventh, leading the first 37 laps before Austin Dillon took over.
“I didn’t really like not leading the first lap, but that’s not the one that pays the money,” Sadler said. “We learned what we had to learn, and we moved on from it. I felt like my restarts the rest of the race were pretty good.”
Sadler briefly gained the lead from Dillon, his Richard Childress Racing teammate, on the restart following a competition caution on Lap 50. The second caution, when John Blankenship spun out 87 laps in, jumbled the front-runners. Allgaier benefited from a fast pit stop to take the lead, while Dillon dropped to 10th and Sadler to eighth.
Sadler fell back again after a pit stop during the third caution for debris on the track, but he maneuvered through the field before overtaking Allgaier late.
“I had a hard time passing [Allgaier],” Sadler said. “He knew where my car was fast.
“He just got a little loose off of Turn 4, and that particular lap I got a really good bite under him. … Once we got out front, I knew we were in really good shape.”
The win capped a huge day for RCR. Team owner Richard Childress was at Pocono Raceway for Joey Coulter’s win in the Pocono Mountains 125 on Saturday afternoon. He joined Sadler in Victory Lane at Iowa Speedway later that night. Adding to the impressive day, Sadler and Dillon hold the top two spots in the Nationwide points.
“That was great,” Childress said. “You get two wins in one day, let’s hope tomorrow we can cap it off and make it a full sweep with a third one.”
Childress had faith Sadler would come through with the win, praising his passes of Kurt Busch for second before taking the lead from Allgaier.
“I couldn’t be prouder of him,” Childress said. “Elliott got up on the wheel when he had to get up on the wheel.”
Allgaier, who has 13 top-10 finishes in 2012, recorded his best finish of the season, placing second. He set a career best, leading 101 laps of a Nationwide race. His previous best was 88 laps led.
“To come here and lead the most laps and run as good as we did, I was proud of that,” Allgaier said. “It’s tough to see Elliott out there and know you’re catching him and there’s not really much you can do.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had won three straight Nationwide races at Iowa but couldn’t make a push for the lead. He suffered problems with tire grip after starting 11th and finished fifth. Stenhouse held his third-place spot in the standings, falling to 21 points back of Sadler but closing to three behind Dillon.
Sam Hornish Jr. won the final Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus as the program from series sponsor Nationwide drew to a close. He placed third, finishing one spot ahead of Des Moines native Michael Annett.
Annett remained sixth in points, trailing Allgaier by 26, and placed a few spots ahead of fellow Iowan Brett Moffitt, who made his series debut.
Moffitt placed ninth, one spot ahead of where he started. He viewed the night as just another race but was happy with the performance.
“It was a lot of fun,” Moffitt said. “I got a lot of experience racing with the cars. These things racing around other cars, they’re really aero-dependent, so it’s a lot harder racing around other cars. I learned a lot, so that was good.”
Brad Sweet was the highest finishing rookie, placing 12th.
Next week the Nationwide Series heads to Watkins Glen, New York for a twisted road course race. You can watch the Zippo 200 at the Glen on ABC around two eastern next Saturday.
Via the NASCAR Wire Service