NASCAR: Elliott Sadler takes over Nationwide points lead

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Regan Smith’s star-crossed history at Kentucky Speedway continued last night, and that’s helped Elliott Sadler take over the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship lead.

With 31 laps to go in last night’s John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300, Smith was jockeying for position with Kyle Larson and Ryan Reed. As they made their way down the backstretch, Reed made contact with Smith from behind and sent the latter’s car into the outside wall.

Smith then slid into the inside retaining wall for additional damage to the car. The incident relegated him to a 28th place finish, yet another in a string of bad results for him on the 1.5-mile oval.

In eight NNS starts at Kentucky, Smith has three DNFs, a top finish of only 12th in 2013, and an average finish of 26.2.

“The race was just a tough situation,” Smith said. “We tried to use pit strategy and get up front, and it worked until that caution came out after green-flag stops. That just killed us.

“It really led to us getting back in the pack and that was where we didn’t want to be. I think we all saw the results.”

While Smith limped home, Sadler was able to pull out a 10th-place finish that was enough to put him atop the NNS standings by four points over Chase Elliott, who finished in 12th. Smith is third in the standings now at eight points behind Sadler.

Heading into Daytona next weekend, Sadler said it was too early to start thinking about the points scenario – but that it was no time to be cautious either.

“You can’t play conservative,” he said. “Yes, we have the points lead and I’m happy about that because the last two weeks have killed us. Michigan running second and overheating and have to pit under green with 15 laps to go, and then running fifth at Road America and have a flat tire with four laps to go and come out running 20th.

“So, for us to sit here right now with the points lead is pretty amazing after the last couple weeks we’ve had. We’re going to go to Daytona and race like crazy and see what happens.”

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
James Gilbert/Getty Images

Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.