DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Elliott Sadler received a much-needed shot in the arm Friday night at Darlington Raceway, only he had to go around his elbow to get there.
A hair-raising mid-race spin did little to slow Sadler in the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 on his way to a second-place finish, his best of the season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. It also helped Sadler jump two spots in the series standings to third place, just one spot behind where he's finished the last two seasons in the championship hunt.
"I think our team has really come around these last couple of weeks, but we needed this," said Sadler, who finished .936 seconds behind race-winner Kyle Busch, his teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing. "This is a good momentum builder going into an off week."
Sadler joined the Gibbs organization in the offseason after two years running with Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress as his car owners. His first year at JGR started with the promise of a good season, but thus far, he hasn't been a constant contender for victories -- his previous best finish this season was a pair of fifths with no laps led.
That changed Friday night, when he started second and finished second, spending much of the night near the front as Gibbs cars took four of the top five spots.
It wasn't just as simple as finishing where he started, though. Sadler overcooked his entry into the first turn while running second on Lap 50, clipping the track apron and looping his No. 11 Toyota into a long, drawn-out spin. He avoided contact with the outside wall, then regained control near the inside wall -- no harm, no foul.
"I was already a little loose there and I just misjudged it and just got loose," Sadler said. "Man, I was pushing it trying to keep up with the 54 (Busch) because I wanted to get up there and try to lead some laps. Just went in there too hard and got loose. I had to make the decision to try to spin it out or try to correct it and I was scared I was going to over-correct it, so I just spun it out."
The spin left him on the fringes of the top 10, but Sadler restarted 11th and worked his way back into his perch among the top three. If the intangible quality of momentum is true, Sadler may be inching back toward the head of the class in the season-long fight.
"I think this race here tonight," Sadler said, "is going to give us some good momentum that we need to kind of get back up near the front where we need to be."
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