Elliott Sadler watched his Xfinity Series title hopes go up in smoke with four laps remaining in the FordEcoBoost300 on Saturday.
After a lengthy battle with his JR Motorsports teammate—and eventual champion William Byron—Sadler caught fourth-place Ryan Preece. Coming out of Turn 4, Preece, who was racing for the owner’s title, was in Sadler’s line and the two drivers made contact.
“I got a flat, I got a flat,” Sadler radioed to the No. 1 JR Motorsports team. Despite the tire, Sadler continued his course and finished eighth—the last car on the lead lap. Preece held on to finish fifth.
For the fourth time in seven seasons, Sadler had to settle for second place in the Xfinity standings. He lost the title by five-points to Byron.
Following the race, Sadler approached Preece on pit road. The drivers had to be separated by NASCAR officials.
“He cost us a championship and he’s not even racing anybody,” Sadler said. “If you’re going to race people like that in this sport, you’re not going to make it very far.
“He just gassed it and pinched me down, and that was it. That’s pretty hard to swallow. Tonight is the most devastated and down-and-out I’ve ever felt in my career. It’s a shame to be that close and not pull it off.”
Preece defends the way he raced Sadler
Preece, who was making his fourth start for Joe Gibbs Racing was the last Toyota remaining in the owner’s battle. Preece said he was following team orders by not relinquishing his position.
“To be honest with you, if there’s a person you don’t want to cost a championship to, it’s Elliott Sadler,” Preece said. “I was racing for the owner’s championship. We weren’t racing for the win right there, but we were still racing the 9…It’s not where I want to be right there, but you can’t take it back.
“As soon as the 9 got by us, my point for racing was gone. He was going to pull away. I was going to let him go. Obviously, there was contact—and that’s the last thing you want. Growing up, I was a huge Elliott Sadler fan. I know his father Brad, very well. You don’t want that type of scenario especially early on. But it is what it is.”
JGR announced earlier this week that Preece’s role will expand in the NXS next season. With his first career Xfinity win this season at Iowa Speedway, Preece’s averaged a third-place finish for the 2017.