Elliott Sadler started second in the JGR No. 11 Camry and led nine times for a race-high 40 laps en route to victory lane.
Elliott Sadler crossed the finish line first in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race at Talladega Superspeedway to earn his first win in a Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) Toyota Camry and his first career victory at the 2.66-mile Alabama superspeedway.
· The win marks the third triumph for Toyota in 2014 and the 91st Camry victory since entering series competition in 2007, along with the fourth at Talladega.
· Sam Hornish Jr. (fifth), Joe Nemechek (sixth) and David Starr (ninth) also earned top-10 finishes for Toyota at Talladega.
· Sadler is currently second in the unofficial NNS point standings and sits one point behind leader Chase Elliott. Camry driver James Buescher (eighth) is also in the top-10 in the point standings.
· The next race on the Nationwide Series schedule is at Iowa Speedway, May 18.
ELLIOTT SADLER, No. 11 OneMain Financial Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing - Finishing Position: 1st
How were you able to hold on for the win in the closing laps? “We just got on the inside line there and we just had to make some good moves. The sea kind of opened up for us. This means a lot to me to be able to get these guys to victory lane. I’m disappointed about last year and I wasn’t able to do it. We have a lot of people here from OneMain Financial today. So glad to win with all those guys here -- it means a lot to me. To do it at Talladega -- everybody always asks me about flipping at Talladega. Now we won one at Talladega so it feels a lot better.”
How important was your spotter in the race? “He (Brett Griffin) did a good job today and there at the end under the red flag I was playing all these scenarios in my head really on how many races I’ve lost here in the last couple laps -- not making the right decision. We just stayed to the bottom and stuck to our guns. David Ragan did a good job pushing us and we were just able to hold those guys off at the end. Brett did a great job and he deserves this.
He did a great job getting us all on the front row yesterday, but it means a lot, I’m telling you it means a lot to get this JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) team to victory lane. They worked their butts off last year and I wasn’t able to reward them. Chris (Gayle, crew chief) is doing a great job and we’re getting a lot of momentum on our side. We let one get away from us at Darlington so to come back here and get one for all our sponsors -- SportClips, OneMain Financial, Toyota, everybody that’s a partner at JGR. This makes us feel good.”
How wild was the race? “It was pretty wild the whole race. We dropped back to 12th or 13th and we really had to make something happen and had to switch lanes pretty quick and do some things I’m not used to doing. I was able to block there pretty good at the end. David Ragan gave us a great push there the last two laps and Chris Buescher drove a heck of a race. We were just able to edge them there at the end. I finally get to win a race with a lot of those OneMain Financial folks here -- that’s always a lot of extra pressure to do that. My team deserves it. A lot of hard work went into this race car and it was very fast at Daytona. We weren’t able to finish the deal off there so to come to Talladega and make it happen feels special.”
How did things unfold during today’s race for you? “I think with this new rule that we have with the pushing and the bumping track position is so important. So, we felt like with a good qualifying effort yesterday if we could just keep track position the whole day we would be in good shape and Chris (Gayle, crew chief) made some great calls -- two tire stops and things like that to keep us up front.
I’m going to be honest with you, during that red flag sitting in turn three I had 20 scenarios through my head of how many times I’ve screwed up here in the past with a good race car and not been able to finish it off. Blocking the wrong lane or going at the wrong time or going in the wrong lane. So, I felt like leading the race I had to protect the bottom, felt really comfortable with David Ragan behind me because we all know what kind of drafting race car driver he is and we were just able to make the right blocks at the right time.
Brett Griffin did a heck of a job as my spotter telling me what lanes were coming and -- I've got such a love hate relationship with this race track. We always run good here, but I always doggone flip or wreck or hit hard or something. So, every autograph session everywhere I go everybody always reminds me of the flip I had down the back straightaway here a couple years ago and damn it maybe they can ask me about winning here. It was good to get that under our hat today with such a fast race car and it means a lot to me.”
How much did it weigh on you not get a win for Joe Gibbs Racing last year and how relieved are you to get it today? “When you come to a new place and you’re running for such a respectable man and person and owner like Joe Gibbs Racing and you’re not able to give back to them and not go to victory lane and not really run for the championship as strong as you want to it weighed on me heavy. Dude, I’m competitive as hell and I don’t want to just ride around. I want to race and race for wins and run upfront and today to be able to go to victory lane and him (Joe Gibbs) call me on the phone was amazing to me. That was a feeling that’s really hard to put into words, but it just feels good.
It feels like we’ve put a lot of extra hard work in this winter into the race team and building new cars and I’ve done a lot of extra work as far as myself staying fit and being ready each and every week. And, I’ve got one of the best sponsors -- they are so loyal to this sport. They’ve been in racing now over 13 or 14 years and to see the owner and her husband here and they were able to go to victory lane for us for the first time today together, you can’t put that in words.
That just feels great as a driver to be able to do that. So, yes it weighed heavy on me last year and it hurts the way we ran last year -- I ain’t going to lie to you. It was a tough long winter because of that, but we’ve run good here the last couple weeks. We were really fast at Richmond and got spun out. Ran really good at Darlington and we were fast as hell today. But, it feels really good to put it all together.”
CHRIS GAYLE, crew chief, No. 11 OneMain Financial Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What was it like to go to victory lane as a crew chief? - “It’s hard to describe. We wanted to do this last year and we went through a lot of times last year where we were just kind of getting on the same page. A new team for Elliott (Sadler) and my first time being a crew chief and we went through some struggles of just kind of communication and understanding each other. That makes it that much more sweeter right now. To go through that, to talk about in the off-season, to sit down and commit to doing this again and to be on the same page and come out early and get this win out of the way it means a lot.”
SAM HORNISH JR., No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing - Finishing Position: 5th
How was the race today? “It was a lot of ups and downs. We were pretty confident with the way everything was going on. I made a mistake coming out of the pits and just stalled the car a little bit and we lost a little bit and then we got shuffled. Worked our way back up there and then we got to the point where I thought we were actually going to lead -- we were the first car on the outside and for whatever reason the car just started pushing really bad. I don’t know, that’s the only time I’ve been in clean air all weekend so I don’t know if it had anything to do with that, but it’s really the opposite of what you would ever expect.
The Monster Energy Toyota was really good and obviously I wish we could have done a little bit more, but happy for Elliott (Sadler) and all the guys at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing). They got to go to victory lane, but on the same thing I know that you can come here just as easily and be 25th of no fault of your own. To get out of here with a top-five and this be our first race together, I’ll take it because it could have been a lot worse that’s for sure.”
Are you happy with a fifth-place result in your first start with Joe Gibbs Racing? “I wanted it to be a little bit better, but this is the first I think of the restrictor plate races I’ve ran at Talladega where I brought the car home as clean as I have. We were just trying to be patient today, take care of it. We had an issue where I think we just wore through a tire or were having a little problem, we had to pit and it put us in the back and worked our way up. I was really just happy with the way that we were able to push ourselves up there. Man, I wanted more for all of these guys that work on the Monster Energy Toyota but I’m happy for Joe Gibbs Racing that they got one car in victory lane. This was the wild card for me for my schedule this year so I’m really glad that we got a top-five out of it and we’ll move on to Iowa.”
Were guys really impatient early on in the race? - “They were impatient all day long. When you’re out there just trying to take care of your equipment and make sure that you get it to the end and there was guys pushing water four or five laps into the race and I just wanted to take care of this Toyota engine as well as we could and make sure that we had something to race with at the end. I’ve been out there before where I’ve led the most laps on a restrictor plate race and haven’t finished that well. It’s just a top-five finish on a restrictor plate day is about all you can ask for. The only thing better than that is winning. Just real happy that we got out of it as much as we did and relieved that it’s over.”
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports - Finishing Position: 6th
DAVID STARR, No. 44 BYF.org/Steely Lumber Company Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports - Finishing Position: 9th
What does it mean to get a top-10 finish and to have been up front in the closing laps? “I was excited for all the guys on the team. We don’t have a big team, but we have a team with a lot of heart. Mark Smith (team owner) and Kathy are just great people. It’s a big honor to drive their race car. They have been good friends of mine forever. Steely Lumber Company and all our sponsors -- all the people that make this possible for me. We don’t get to race like this all the time. It’s really cool to be able to run up front like that. Our finish -- we finished ninth and we wanted to win. I kind of got freight-trained and really didn’t have anybody to push me, but all in all I’m glad to have a finish in the top-10 and excited. This Toyota Camry was awesome today.”
MIKE BLISS, No. 19 Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports - Finishing Position: 12th
JOHN WES TOWNLEY, No. 25 Zaxby’s Toyota Camry, Athenian Motorsports - Finishing Position: 13th
How was your race? - “All in all it was a great day. We had some good runs. We got on the outside a few times, we just never could really make it work for us. At the end of the day we pulled off a top-15 finish -- 13th is great for any Nationwide team just starting out for its first time I think. It’s not what everybody really wants, but at the end of the day the Zaxby’s Toyota Camry came out looking pretty good and that’s what we wanted. We wanted to just kind of get out there and earn some respect as a team and I think we did that. We can go on and I think we’ve got about 12 more races left and hopefully we continue to make strides ahead from this and if we keep working at it like this I think we can.”
ERIC MCCLURE, No. 14 Hefty Ultimate/Reynolds Wrap Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports - Finishing Position: 17th
JAMES BUESCHER, No. 99 Rheem Toyota Camry, RAB Racing - Finishing Position: 29th
What happened that took you out of the race? “I watched the replay in the hauler, but I was able to push the 2 (Brian Scott) all the way up to the front and get him in the lead and he was staying high enough to let me get a draft to try to get myself clear. I was almost clear of the 11 (Elliott Sadler) -- running second there and the 22 (Ryan Blaney) just pushed on the wrong part of the bumper. He pushed on the left rear and we see it time and time again that you spin that guy around.
That’s frustrating, but it’s not the most frustrating part. I was able to keep my car down on the grass and below the apron and on the apron, doing my best to stay below that yellow line so the guys could drive by and not tear my car up and put some tires on and keep going. Somehow I managed to get hit below the yellow line down on the apron when I was trying to stay out of the way. That’s the frustrating part because now we have a torn up Rheem Toyota Camry and we had a shot to win this thing.”
DARRELL WALLACE JR., No. 20 ToyotaCare Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing - Finishing Position: 31st
Did you see what happened to cause the accident? “I don’t know, I tried to stay out of the storm that produces here at Talladega and it didn’t happen. It’s just a bummer. I hate plate racing -- I’m going to say that. I’m horrible at it, I hate it -- I don’t know. We got caught up on pit road, I made a mistake. I’m frustrated and trying to hold in all the words, but we had a very, very good Toyota Camry for this race and I really thought we had a shot at a top-three finish. It just gets ruined by somebody else’s mess again. I’m going to be the ‘Debbie downer’ here and I’m not looking forward to Talladega for the Truck race -- that’s just the way it goes.”
JEFF GREEN, No. 91 Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports - Finishing Position: 38th
BLAKE KOCH, No. 10 Supportmilitary.org Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports - Finishing Position: 40th