Elliott Sadler's team gained him ten positions on a late-race pit stop with a two-tire call. The result wasn't a championship, but it was pretty close.
Sadler restarted the race in the second position, but was quickly overpowered by a charging Suarez. Despite the older rubber, he still managed to finish third and snag the runner-up position in the final standings.
"Yeah, you know, it was not exactly what we wanted. We had to fight back there at the end. We had to make a pit strategy call and put two tires on, and was looking forward to just trying to get some clean air and then try to dictate the restart and see if I could hold these guys off with four tires there at the end, and you just ‑‑ the 14 didn't go, so I hesitated a little bit, and (Suarez) did a good job and got a good run on me. I just kind of made a little bit of mistake there on the restart."
The No. 14 car Sadler mentions above was piloted by Cole Whitt and is part of TriStar Motorsports. The team's bold decision to stay out for the final restart caused the finish to be shrouded in controversy. Erik Jones and Justin Allgaier were hurt the most by the move, both leaving quite frustrated.
Sadler was also hindered by the slower car, hesitant to put the throttle down in fear of getting penalized. It was crucial for him to get a lead on Suarez (who had fresher tires) to have a chance, which did not happen.
"I was asking for it. I was asking for it because with the two tires, you kind of want to be on the high line. I don't know, Daniel's car was really fast, but I was going to try to hold him down, and then when the 14 didn't go on the restart, I actually kind of stopped and hesitated. The green flag was waving, but he really wasn't going, so I didn't know really what to do. I was like, man, this is Indy all over again. So I kind of hesitated, and I think that allowed Daniel to get a good run on me and cost me the championship.
Why this one hurts the most
Sadler has finished second in the final NXS standings on three occasions now, having never won the title. The No. 1 team has been superb throughout the entire 2016 season, even more so during the Chase. That fact was not lost on Sadler, making this latest defeat much more difficult to swallow.
"This is by far the hardest because I feel like this is the best team I've probably ever worked with. Before when I've come to Homestead, I've been a few points back, and like if certain situations happened, you know, you might could win, but it's a long shot, but here with four guys even, we all wanted to win. We all felt like we all had a chance of winning.
"With the team I have now, love them to death, and we've had such good race cars all year. We felt like we could come in here and compete and we made a great pit call there at the end to get some clean air, but yeah, it hurts, because I felt like we have prepped for so long for this race, and it didn't go as well as we want through the middle part of it."