Elliott Sadler stormed to victory Saturday afternoon in the NASCAR Nationwide Series' Aaron's 312, fending off his challengers after a late-race restart at Talladega Superspeedway.
The win was Sadler's 10th in the series, first of the season and first on the 2.66-mile track. He led nine times for 40 laps in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota and was just .125 seconds ahead of runner-up Chris Buescher in a characteristically close-quarters finish that has become the track's trademark.
Buescher, who crossed under the white flag in a near dead-heat alongside Sadler, was a career-best second place in just his 17th Nationwide start. Regan Smith, David Ragan and Sam Hornish Jr. completed the top five.
A late flurry of crashes whittled the field of contenders, including a wreck involving six cars at the front that triggered a red flag with 112 of the 117 laps complete. Ryan Blaney collided with leader Sadler and smacked the outside wall in Turn 3. Kasey Kahne and Jeremy Clements absorbed the most damage, with rookie Chase Elliott -- the Nationwide Series points leader -- and Ryan Sieg also involved.
That caution period forced a restart with three laps left, setting up the dramatic finish.
The first one-third of the race ran relatively cleanly until a four-car wreck brought out the second caution flag to slow the pace. James Buescher spun in Turn 3 off the front bumper of Blaney in the 42nd lap, collecting rookies Darrell Wallace Jr., Ryan Reed and Dylan Kwasniewski in the aftermath. Reed had led the first 29 laps before the first caution period -- for debris -- flew to jumble the field.
A 10-car wreck in the 60th lap knocked out more contending drivers, including Brian Scott, who led six times for 10 laps. Scott's No. 2 Chevrolet was turned sideways after a bump from Trevor Bayne, and the ensuing melee snared all the Richard Childress Racing cars -- Scott, Ty Dillon and Brendan Gaughan -- plus Kyle Larson, Reed, Chad Boat, Robert Richardson Jr., Joey Gase and Mike Harmon.
"Anybody that's done superspeedway racing knows you can't do that," Scott said of Bayne's contact with his car's bumper entering the turn. "Stupid move halfway through the race. There's no need for it. ... It's unfortunate when you're a victim of stupidity."
Elliott finished 19th -- the next-to-last driver on the lead lap -- and retained the lead in Nationwide standings by just one point over Sadler.
FULL SERIES COVERAGE
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- NASCAR Nationwide Series
- Elliott Sadler
- Chris Buescher
- Talladega Superspeedway
- Ryan Blaney
- Joe Gibbs Racing