By Amanda Vincent, NASCAR reporter
- Sadler's first race as points leader
- Took points lead at Dover
Points leader Sadler a rookie in NNS racing at Iowa
The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Iowa Speedway this weekend for Sunday’s John Deere Dealers of Iowa 250. The series has visited the track twice before, once in 2009 and again in 2010. The series visit this weekend will be the first of two the Nationwide Series will make to Iowa Speedway in 2011.
Elliott Sadler heads into the race on Sunday as the Nationwide Series points leader. It’s the first time Sadler has been in that position. This weekend will also mark his first race, of any kind, at Iowa.
“I’m excited about going to Iowa,” Sadler said. “It’s one of the few racetracks on the Nationwide Series schedule that I’ve never been to.”
Of course, Iowa Speedway is only a few years old and the Nationwide Series has only made a couple of stops there, so nobody entered in the series race this weekend has a lot of seat time in at the track. A few laps in practice and then qualifying on Saturday should get Sadler almost up to speed on the ins and outs of series racing at Iowa Speedway. Besides, the race on Sunday will be the first at the track for the new Nationwide car, putting Sadler more on an even playing field than even the drivers who competed in both of the previous series events at the track.
“We get a lot of extra practice time, and I get an extra set of tires because I’ve never been there before, so I’m looking forward to going to Iowa,” Sadler said.
As a driver who has never raced in anything, let alone a Nationwide Series car, at Iowa Speedway, Sadler will be considered a rookie in the race on Sunday.
With only two previous Nationwide races at Iowa, there are only two previous winners in series competition there -- Brad Keselowski, who won the inaugural race there in 2009, and Kyle Busch, last year’s winner. Busch doesn’t plan to make the trip to Iowa, instead focusing on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, both at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. That leaves Keselowski as the lone previous Nationwide winner at the track in the race field come Sunday.
Keselowski is one of only two full-time Sprint Cup Series drivers entered in the Nationwide race at Iowa, the other being Carl Edwards. With only two Sprint Cup regulars in this weekend’s race, Sunday is the perfect opportunity for a Nationwide regular to be the first driver of the year and the first since Justin Allgaier won at Bristol Motor Speedway in March 2010 to claim victory.
... I’ve never been there before, so I’m looking forward to going to Iowa.
Sadler would be the perfect candidate for that accomplishment. After a rather slow start to his 2011 return to the Nationwide Series season that began with a 38th-place finish in the opener at Daytona International Speedway, he has righted the ship that is the No. 2 entry of Kevin Harvick Inc. After the dismal start at Daytona, Sadler posted two-consecutive top-12 finishes, and in the time since, he has finished outside the top-10 only once.
Since the March 19 race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Sadler has more often than not finished in the top-five. A fourth-place finish at Bristol set off a string of four-straight top-five finishes before a 13th-place showing a Nashville Superspeedway late last month. Since Nashville, Sadler has finishes of third and sixth to his credit -- finishes that propelled him to his first-ever Nationwide Series points lead.
Putting himself solidly within the top-five of the finishing order most weeks, it’s only a matter of time before Sadler finds himself celebrating in victory lane. Sunday’s race at Iowa would be just as good a time as any. After all, Iowa Speedway was patterned after Richmond International Raceway, the track Sadler considers his “home track.” He finished fourth in his most recent race at Richmond.
“It’s shaped a lot like Richmond, which we did well at earlier this season,” Sadler said.
The John Deere Dealers of Iowa 250 is scheduled to take the green flag at approximately 2 p.m. ET on Sunday. Live coverage is scheduled to begin at 1:30 pm. ET on ABC. The race can also be heard on MRN and Sirius XM Radio, channel 90.