Elliott Sadler and the Cessna team persevered to a ninth-place finish in the DC Solar 200 at ISM Raceway after experiencing engine trouble in Friday’s first practice session. After claiming his fourth top-10 finish of the season, Sadler reclaimed the NASCAR Xfinity Series point standings lead following the Phoenix event on Saturday afternoon.
The No. 1 team’s weekend began like every other weekend, with practice. During only the second run of the day, Sadler had engine trouble causing the Cessna team to change motors quickly and efficiently before final practice. With success, Sadler was back out on the race track completing runs with the new engine in place. Although the team qualified 24th after electing to complete only one qualifying run in Round One, Sadler dropped to the rear of the field for the green flag due to Friday’s changed engine.
Following the start of the race, Sadler was quick to begin gaining track position. By lap 7, the Cessna Chevrolet was up to 24th and was named the biggest mover at that point. Under the first caution of the day, Sadler relayed to the No. 1 team that the handling on their Camaro was good on entry, tight in the middle and loose off. It was then that Sadler came down pit road for fresh tires, fuel and an adjustment. On the restart, the Cessna Chevrolet was in 21st place. In the next 10 laps before the stage end, the veteran driver was able to claim one position, ultimately finishing Stage One in the 20th-place running position. It was following the opening stage that the first red flag of the day was displayed for wet conditions.
After an hour and 34-minute rain delay, the field returned to green for Stage Two. With the recent visit down pit road, the No. 1 team elected to remain on track beginning the stage in 13th place. The second stage brought a similar fight for Sadler and his JR Motorsports team as he was still loose off. The veteran driver was battling for the 11th running position when the caution flag was displayed on lap 84 for an incident in Turn 1. Continuing with their unique strategy, Sadler pitted for four tires, fuel and an adjustment while others opted to stay out. The Emporia, Va. native took the restart for the final lap of the stage in 21st place after another 25-minute delay for weather. He gained one position in the final lap to finish Stage Two in 20th place.
The Cessna team restarted for the final stage of the race in ninth after crew chief Kevin Meendering made the call for Sadler to remain on track. In the opening laps following the restart, Sadler slipped back to the 11th position. As the run continued, Sadler reported improvement in the center turn but that he was still loose off. The Cessna team reached the eighth position before Sadler was called down pit road under green for a scheduled pit stop. When the green-flag stops cycled through, the No. 1 Camaro was scored in the ninth position. This is the position, the Cessna team would conclude the 200-lap race in just under 35 laps later. The strong performance by the team gave them their fourth top-10 finish of the season in just four races, so far.
Brad Keselowski won the Phoenix event and was followed by JRM teammate Justin Allgaier, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and Jamie McMurray to round out the top five.
Elliott Sadler, driver No. 1 Cessna team:
“Overall, we had a good day and made up good position. We struggled to get going on new tires and the weather kept throwing us all curveballs, which was making it tough to make the strategy play out the way we wanted. To come home with a single-digit finish is a pretty good day for us here. We will look forward to the next couple weeks and get ready for Fontana.”
Laps Completed (Led): 199 of 200 (0)
Points (Bonus): 28 (0)
Points Standings (from leader): 1st (+1)