NNS: Hard luck night at Daytona for Elliott Sadler

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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.”

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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