Talladega, AL (SportsNetwork.com) - Elliott Sadler held off Chris Buescher and Regan Smith in a frantic three-lap shootout to the finish to win Saturday's Aaron's 312 Nationwide Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
A six-car wreck with five laps remaining forced the seventh and final caution and therefore set up the three-lap sprint to the checkered flag. Sadler had just moved into the lead when the caution flag was displayed. NASCAR had to stop the race for nine minutes due to track cleanup efforts from the wreck.
After the last restart, Buescher pulled even with Sadler for the lead. Smith, who won the season-opener at Daytona in February as well as last year's race at Talladega, challenged them for the top spot as well. Sadler beat Buescher to the finish line by only 0.124 seconds, while Smith was just 0.146 seconds behind in third.
Sadler claimed his 10th career Nationwide win but his first since August 2012 at Iowa (54 races ago). He also moved to within one point of leader Chase Elliott in the championship standings.
This is Sadler's second season as driver of the No. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in Nationwide. He drove for Richard Childress Racing when his last victory in the series came almost two years ago.
"This means a lot to me to get these guys [No. 11 JGR team] to victory lane," Sadler said. "I disappointed them last year when I wasn't able to do it."
It's the first time Sadler has won a NASCAR national touring series race at Talladega.
In September 2003 when he drove for Robert Yates Racing, Sadler was involved in a vicious crash in the late stages of the Cup Series race at Talladega. After making contact with Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Sadler's car went airborne and then landed on its roof before it flipped around several times. He was not injured but had to be transported to a nearby hospital for observation.
"To win at Talladega - everybody is always asking me about flippin' at Talladega, but [darn it] we've won one at Talladega, so this feels a lot better," Sadler said.
Buescher, a rookie in the series this year, scored his career-best finish with second. It was the first restrictor-place race for Buescher in Nationwide. He failed to qualify for the season-opener at Daytona.
"I just really wanted to come here and finish this thing without tearing up a race car and wanted to get a solid run, so I think getting a second-place finish just makes it that much better," Buescher said.
David Ragan and Sam Hornish Jr., the pole sitter, rounded out the top-five. Hornish, who finished second in Nationwide points last year, made his first start of the season, driving the No. 54 Toyota for JGR.
Joe Nemechek, J.J. Yeley, Landon Cassill, David Starr and Trevor Bayne finished sixth through 10th, respectively.
Bayne caused a major accident in turn 4 just past the halfway point in this 117-lap race. He hit Brian Scott from behind and spun him, which triggered a 10-car pileup. Kyle Larson and Ryan Reed, who led the first 29 laps, were among those involved in the incident.
"It felt like the 6 [Bayne] got into the left-rear corner of my [car], and anybody who has done superspeedway racing, you know that you can't do that because it turns them immediately," Scott said. "It was a stupid move halfway through the race. There was no need for it. Wrecked a lot of good cars and tore up a lot of stuff. It's unfortunate when you're a victim of stupidity."
Elliott, a rookie who has won two races this season, ended up finishing 19th after he was involved in the wreck that occurred in the closing laps. The accident occurred when Ryan Blaney bumped into Sadler while they were battling for the lead. Blaney shot up the track and smacked the wall before he collected several cars. Jeremy Clements slammed hard into the outside wall but was not injured.
After finishing third, Smith moved to within three points of Elliott for the lead.
"I hate being able to see the [checkered] flag but not get there first, but it was a good day, nonetheless," Smith said.