Sadler ends Stenhouse’s Iowa reign with victory in U.S. Cellular 250
|Elliott Sadler celebrates in Iowa Speedway’s Pizza Ranch Victory Lane after winning Saturday night’s U.S. Cellular 250 NASCAR Nationwide Race. (Mike Hockett/Daily News)|
It was beginning to be difficult to think that anyone besides Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was going to end up at Pizza Ranch Victory Lane in the NASCAR Nationwide Series stops at Iowa Speedway.
After multiple drivers paced the field of Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250, it was series points leader Elliott Sadler that grabbed the lead on lap 192 and didn’t let go, extending his points lead and ending Stenhouse Jr.’s three-race streak.
“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, we moved on from it and for the rest of the race we were pretty good.”
Despite starting on the pole, Sadler was quickly dethroned by 18-year-old Darrell Wallace Jr., who started second in his second Nationwide race of his career. Wallace proceeded to lead the next 35 laps by a wide margin before Austin Dillon caught up to him around the lap 40 mark. Although Wallace wasn’t in contention for the lead for the rest of the night, he went on to finish seventh and improved on his previous Iowa Speedway finish of ninth.
“It was pretty big. That was a cool moment,” Wallace said of leading the race. “We just sailed away for a while, but we need to take baby steps at it since we qualified second and then fell back, so now we’ll have to qualify first, run up front and stay up front.”
Dillon had his own moments in the sun for a while after that, but began to slow down due to a vibration. After multiple pit stops to correct it, he slowed way down and Justin Allgaier was able to steal the momentum. “Little Gator” then showed his bite and led a race-high 101 laps, sometimes by a margin of more than two seconds.
“This one’s a tough one because obviously it’s good to finish second and we had a great run, but it’s also frustrating at the same time to see Elliott out in front of me and to know that’s who we’re going to have to catch,” Allgaier said. “We were running him down and unfortunately we just ran out of laps, so it’s bittersweet for sure.”
The middle stretch of the race was the strongest for locals Michael Annett and Brett Moffitt, the latter of which was making his Nationwide Series debut. Annett found himself running in the top10 for most of the day, but Moffitt turned some heads and received plenty of praise from the ESPN2 announcers when he reached as high as eighth place on lap 165.
“It was fun because right after that first restart, we sucked for a few laps,” Moffitt said with a laugh. “As it went on, we burned some fuel, it got a little tighter and that’s when the car came to life. It was a lot of fun and I got a lot of experience with the cars.”
All the while, Stenhouse was riding consistently in eighth and ninth before making a move to fourth during the race’s third and final caution. Due to a new right front tire that was brought in just for this weekend, Stenhouse said throughout the night that wasn’t able to drive as aggressively as normally does and it ultimately cost him in what could be his final race in Newton.
“They said they had a tire problem, but I’m not sure how they can say that,” Stenhouse said. “We ran the very fastest laps last time and had no issues with it, so I’m not sure how they came up with that conclusion. But they felt like they needed to make a change.”
The final stretch of the race provided plenty of movement, including Danica Patrick cracking the top 10 after running in the middle of the field for a lot of the race. Kurt Busch made his presence known for a while, but eventually slipped down to finish 17th. Before his eventual decisive pass of Allgaier, Sadler had to out-duel Busch to take second. One he did, however, it seemed all but over for Sadler.
“We came out of pits third there and Kurt Busch is a tough competitor, so we knew we had to try and pass him quick,” Sadler said. “When I got to Justin I had a hard time passing him at the beginning of the race because we kind of knew where my car was fast. He made one slip off turn 4 and opened the door for me, and I got a really good bite under him. Once I got out front, I felt like we were in really good shape.”
For Iowa Speedway standards, the race was incredibly clean with just three cautions, one of which being a competition caution at lap 50. The race was also able to avoid controversy, which has seemed to follow Sadler in recent weeks after he was black flagged at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 28. Because of that event, drivers were asked about NASCAR’s restart policy consistently throughout the weekend.
“I remember the one restart I started behind Justin and like, ‘Alright I can’t beat him to the line, I can’t beat him to the line,’ and about the third time I thought it he went, so I thought, ‘Well, I ain’t going to beat him to the line,’” joked Sam Hornish Jr., who edged out Annett for the $100,000 Dash4Cash purse with a third-place finish. “I think NASCAR has basically said what they went and it’s one of those rules that’s very tough.”
The solid, consistent racing was well received by the estimated crowd of 50,000, which roared for Sadler during his post-race celebration. Sadler seemed to echo the sentiment when he was asked about the track’s environment after the race.
“Love it. I mean this place was packed tonight,” Sadler said. “I remember watching this race on TV when I didn’t used to come here a couple years ago and watching the fans and how packed it was, this is a great atmosphere.”
U.S. Cellular 250
1. Elliott Sadler; 2. Justin Allgaier; 3. Sam Hornish Jr.; 4. Michael Annett; 5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.; 6. Michael McDowell; 7. Darrell Wallace Jr.; 8. Jason Leffler; 9. Brett Moffitt; 10. Ryan Blaney
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