Newton, IA – Elliott Sadler put his bitterly disappointing week behind him by winning Saturday night's Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway.
Sadler's victory in the U.S. Cellular 250 at this 0.875-mile racetrack came one week after a restart penalty ended up costing him a win in the inaugural Nationwide event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Sadler passed Brad Keselowski after a restart with 18 laps remaining, but NASCAR determined he advanced his position on Keselowski before the restart line and therefore black-flagged him.
Keselowski went on to win the race, while Sadler ended up finishing 15th and had his championship lead trimmed to only one point over his Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon.
Sadler left Indianapolis in frustration after he pleaded his case to NASCAR that he did not jump the restart.
But Sadler got redemption at Iowa when he passed Justin Allgaier and took the lead for good with 58 laps remaining. He crossed the finish line 0.6 seconds ahead of Allgaier for his fourth win of the season and the ninth of his Nationwide career.
"It's been a tough week," Sadler said. "We really felt like we should have won that race last week. My dad had knee surgery this week, and he gave me the best advice. He said, 'Do not let them (NASCAR) take this championship away from you. Go to Iowa and kick their butts'."
Sadler started on the pole but gave up the lead to Darrell Wallace Jr. on the opening lap. Wallace made just his second start in the series. Sadler took the lead for the first time after a restart on lap 57 and ran in front for two circuits before Dillon passed him the top spot.
With the win, Sadler increased his points lead to 18 over Dillon, who finished one lap behind in 15th. Just past the halfway point in the 250-lap race, Dillon had to pit unexpectedly from the third position to correct a vibration issue.
"I think we're going to be really good for the rest of the year," Sadler said. "I'm driving with a lot of confidence, and (crew chief) Luke (Lambert) is making a lot of good adjustments right now. We're probably communicating the best right now than we have all season long."
Allgaier led the most laps with 101.
"We were good on the short run and really good on the long run, but we just seemed to be a little bit slower than (Sadler)," he said. "Hats off to those guys (Sadler's team). They did a great job."
Sam Hornish Jr., who is one of three drivers competing at Iowa and Pocono Raceway this weekend, finished third and collected a $100,000 bonus in the fourth and final round of Nationwide Insurance's "Dash 4 Cash" program. Another $100,000 went to a race fan paired up with Hornish. Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Iowa-native Michael Annett were also eligible for the cash award.
"I'm just real happy that the guys gave me a good car," Hornish said. "We did exactly what we needed to do."
Hornish, Kurt Busch and Joe Nemechek qualified for Sunday's 400-mile Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono and then traveled to Iowa, making it here prior to qualifying for the Nationwide event. Busch was running third in closing laps before he shredded a tire. He finished one lap down in 17th, one spot behind Nemechek.
Hornish is driving Penske's No. 22 Sprint Cup car at Pocono and for the unforeseeable future in wake of A.J. Allmendinger's indefinite suspension by NASCAR for violating its substance-abuse policy. Allmendinger was released by Penske on Wednesday. Hornish has been behind the wheel of the No. 22 car since last month's Cup race at Daytona.
Annett finished fourth, while Stenhouse, the defending series champion, completed the top-five. Stenhouse was attempting to win his fourth straight race at Iowa, but a pit-road mishap midway through the event and then issues with tire grip prevented him from claiming the victory here.
Stenhouse is now 21 points behind Sadler.
Michael McDowell placed sixth, followed by Wallace Jr. and Jason Leffler. Brett Moffitt made an impressive series debut with a ninth-place run. Moffitt, who hails from nearby Grimes, Iowa, is the current points leader in NASCAR's K&N Pro Series East.
Ryan Blaney finished 10th, and Danica Patrick was 11th. Patrick made slight contact with the wall late in the race.