Elliott Sadler wheeled the No. 38 Robert Yates Racing Ford to his second victory of the 2004 season. Sadler easily out-horsepowered Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin to earn his third career Cup series win in the final sprint to the finish line.
"A win is a win. It's been a long time in between wins. We're going to cherish it. I found my limit yesterday (when we hit the wall in practice). My team was making fun of me yesterday, that they saw the 38, 83, 38, 83."
The win moved Sadler up one notch from seventh to sixth in the Cup series standings, firmly placing him in the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" with just one race to decide the top ten. Sadler believes that his team can give the top contenders in the "chase" a run for their money.
"I think we can," commented Sadler on whether or not he thought the 38 team was championship material. "We have four to five cars in the shop like this one. I can't wait to get them on the track. This is a dream come true. We've been saving up, we might be the sleeper."
Sadler's victory marked another great achievement this season for the M&M's Ford team. Previous to this result, Sadler's best finish at California Speedway had been 21st.
Kahne held on for second, grabbing his fifth second-place finish of the season in his Evernham Motorsports No. 9 Dodge. "It was a great race, we had a good car all day, we made great pit stops and got better and better every stop."
"It started coming back to us there at the end," added Kahne. "But we just couldn't catch Sadler. We were definitely a second or third place car, and we ended up second so that's pretty good."
Roush Racing's Martin was third, and climbed into the top ten in standings with his No. 6 Ford. "This is a great team and I am just so proud to drive the Viagra Taurus."
"I mean it," continued Martin. "It's a pleasure and an honor. These guys are awesome. We had a killer race car on the long greens, but we couldn't help that the cautions kept coming out. If that thing would have gone green all the way, we were sitting pretty. But I am tickled to death to run third and be a contender."
"It was pretty eventful there at the end," said Newman. "It was a good run for us, a good team effort. We got some track position there at the end, passed a few cars and got a top five. The track got a lot faster. We fought the same balance issues from the beginning until the end of the race. The car just got faster."
Triple digits greeted the first NASCAR Labor Day event at California Speedway, the temperatures had cooled for this time of year, but compared to May event, the track and ambient air-temperatures were considerably hotter at race time. The heat subsided as the sun went down, as it started to cool the track temperatures, the action on the race track heated up.
Several cars looked stealth throughout the course of the event, including Brian Vickers (polesitter), Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Sadler and Martin. In the closing laps of the race, it was Kahne and Sadler who appeared to be the class of the field.
Gordon's hopes went up, literally in smoke, at lap 211, when the No. 24 Chevy lost an engine.
With 37 laps to go, Kahne led Martin and Sadler, but the No. 6 Ford was inching up on the rear of the No. 9 Dodge's bumper. At lap 216, Martin caught Kahne and started the battle for the lead, door-to-door as they tore through turn one.
Martin finally got around Kahne in the next turn, and quickly shot out to a car and a half length lead. A spin by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. brought out the caution flag, sending the leaders to pit road.
On the restart at lap 223, Vickers led with Martin and Sadler tucked in close behind. Within one circuit, Martin and Sadler powered around Vickers grabbing the top spots. At that moment, Sadler went high in a surprise move to edge Martin for the lead. Kahne re-took the second slot, leaving Martin in third.
One lap later, the No. 45 of Kyle Petty blew an engine, brining out the tenth caution of the evening. The field re-started with 21 laps to go, the field only got to lap 234, before another yellow flag waved.
Ken Schrader lost his engine, spewing oil into the path of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who could not see and both cars wrecked going into turn 4, bringing out the 11th caution.
At that moment, Martin put a move on Kahne for the second position but due to the yellow, Kahne held the spot.
The late race caution set-up a shoot out for the win with 10 circuits left to be completed. Sadler jumped out to a five car length advantage over the field as Kahne and Martin battled it out for position.
Kahne and Martin tried to rally, but neither car had the horsepower to catch the rocket ship of Sadler.
Jimmie Johnson regained the lead in the points with 50 points over Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-116), Tony Stewart (- 178), Matt Kenseth (-229), Elliott Sadler (-278), Kurt Busch (-296), Ryan Newman (-404), Kasey Kahne (-415) and Mark Martin (-424) complete the top ten in the standings with one race to go before the cut-off for the final ten races in the season, marking the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup".
There were a record 11 caution flags for 51 laps, and 29 lead changes among 13 drivers.
The Race for the Chase will continue at Richmond International Raceway. September 11 will the day the final ten are decided to begin the Chase.