Elliott Sadler’s rough night on Friday at Daytona International Speedway has cost him the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship lead.
Sadler paced 28 laps in the first half of the Subway Firecracker 250, but after pitting on Lap 36, he had to re-visit pit road under green on Lap 44 due to a loose wheel on his car.
The extra stop ultimately knocked him off the lead lap but a caution at Lap 52 for debris enabled him to get the free pass and return to the lead lap.
From there, he worked his way back toward the Top 10 and was in 12th coming to a restart with three laps left in the scheduled 100-lap event.
But as the race went green, Chase Elliott was unable to get going from the front row as his car ran out of gas. That stacked his inside line and Sadler was among several cars who were sent spinning into the infield grass.
The race eventually finished under Green-White-Checkered, and Sadler took the checkered flag in 21st place. As a result, he’s now 12 points down to new series points leader Regan Smith as the scene shifts to New Hampshire next weekend.
Smith was leading the race at the start of the G-W-C, but lost the trophy to Kasey Kahne in a thrilling finish. Meanwhile, Sadler was left to contemplate a missed opportunity.
“We just had a loose left-rear wheel and that was a shame,” he told ESPN. “[Joe Gibbs Racing teammate] Kyle [Busch] and I had worked so great together all night when we wanted to. We really set the pace and made it hard on everybody else – and then we shot ourselves in the foot.
“We can’t be doing this many more times…On the tracks that we run the best at, we’ve got to get the most points and we weren’t able to do that tonight. So, we’ve dug ourselves a hole, and we gotta regroup and come back at New Hampshire.”
Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.
The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.
“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.
Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”
Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.
“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.
Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.