Tire Woes Spoil the Night for Elliott Sadler and the No. 2 OneMain Financial Team at Chicago
The NASCAR Nationwide Series roared into the Windy City for the STP 300 where Elliott Sadler and the No. 2 OneMain Financial team were in contention for the win before right-front tire issues spoiled the night. Sadler and the Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) team started the 200-lap event from the outside pole position and ended the race in the 11th place.
The Nationwide Series took to the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday for the 14th event of the season. An afternoon rain storm caused NASCAR to cancel qualifying, setting the 43-car field per the rule book lining teams up according to practice speeds. Sadler and the No. 2 OneMain Financial team started the night from the second position.
Fans witnessed tight door-to-door racing in the opening laps of the 200-lap event. Sadler shifted from second to the third position and communicated to crew chief Ernie Cope that his Chevrolet Impala was really good but too tight in the center, especially in turns three and four.
NASCAR waved the yellow flag on lap 25 for a scheduled competition caution with the No. 2 Chevrolet running in the second position. Cope called Sadler to pit road for the OneMain Financial team to take advantage of the early-race caution period. The crew bolted on four tires, filled the KHI machine with fuel and made minor chassis adjustments in an effort to resolve the tight-handling condition Sadler had reported. A solid pit stop by the KHI crew put the No. 2 in the lead position for the lap 31 restart.
As the field resumed full speed, Sadler and the second-position driver engaged in tight battle swapping positions multiple times as they sailed around the D-shaped oval. The No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet settled into the third position as the tight racing continued. Sadler relayed that his car was much better but needed to be tightened up a little more to help the handling through the center of the turns.
NASCAR waved the yellow flag for the second time on lap 62. Running in the fourth position at the time of caution, Sadler communicated that the KHI Chevrolet was still tight in turns three and four. Cope made the call for his driver to come to pit road where the OneMain Financial crew changed the four tires, added fuel and made some additional minor chassis adjustments as a continued effort to get the handling just right for Sadler.
The field returned to green-flag racing conditions on lap 67. Restarting from the fourth position, Sadler quickly muscled his way to the second position. The Emporia, Va. native continued to hold track position among the top three as the night raced towards the halfway mark. With green-flag pit stops approaching, Sadler radioed to his team that the last round of changes helped the OneMain Financial Chevrolet in the middle of the turns but on the long run was becoming a little loose on exit.
The No. 2 team was planning a lap 123 green-flag stop but on lap 111 lead cars started to come down pit road. Cope quickly made the call to come early and brought Sadler down pit on lap 116 for four tires and fuel.
Shortly after Sadler returned to the track, the field was slowed for the third time on lap 120. Sitting in the sixth position, the KHI team opted not to make a stop during the caution and gained two positions for the lap 127 restart.
Sadler once again charged to the front of the field, working his way to the second position when the fourth yellow flag waved on lap139. With just over 70 laps remaining in the event, the team used the caution period to bring the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet to pit road for fuel and a chassis adjustment. Another solid stop by the KHI team put their driver in the second position for the restart on lap 144.
Back under green-flag conditions, Sadler took the lead, putting the KHI team in position for the win. With 20 laps to the finish, the driver slipped to the second position but kept the leader in sight. Fighting hard to regain the lead in the final 10 laps, Sadler reported that the right-front tire did not feel right.
With only seven laps to go, he relinquished the second position and brought his Chevrolet to pit road where the crew discovered that the right-front tire was starting to cord and come apart. The KHI crew put fresh right-side tires on the vehicle. Sadler returned to the track one lap down and with the wave of the checkered flag, sailed across the finish line in the 11th position.
The No. 2 OneMain Financial team and Elliott Sadler remain in the hunt for the series title sitting second in the Driver's Point standings, two markers out of the lead.