LOUDON, N.H. ? With crew members scurrying to keep things civil, Elliott Sadler angrily confronted Regan Smith in the NASCAR Nationwide Series garage following Saturday's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Despite Smith's best efforts to explain to Sadler that he unintentionally spun him out in the closing laps, a frustrated Sadler pointed his finger at the Nationwide Series points leader asking, "Hey Regan, you got a problem with me? You got a problem with me?"
After Smith offered his version of events, Sadler remained unmoved telling him, "You will not win this championship, mark my word.''
The two were not only racing for a possible win Saturday but were ranked first (Smith) and third (Sadler) in the championship standings coming into the race.
Sadler's No. 11 SportsClips Toyota was running third on the third and final attempt at a green-white-checkered finish with Smith's Chevy lined up behind Sadler in fifth when they collided. Sadler spun out and salvaged an 18th-place showing -- the first time he's finished outside the top-10 since June 1 at Dover, six races ago.
The result, however, dropped him two positions in the standings to fifth -- 24 points behind Smith.
Asked for his take on the situation, Sadler said, "Go ask him,'' motioning to Smith as a team member took Sadler by the arm and guided him out of the garage area.
Smith went into his team transporter to change out of his fire suit, then returned a few minutes later and calmly spoke with reporters. He reiterated it was nothing intentional, but just hard racing and that his car got away from him. But, he understood Sadler's frustration.
"I just had a run on the last re-start on the bottom, and I don't know who was ahead of him, I think the 20 (Brian Vickers) went to block him and he (Sadler) went to block me,'' Smith said. "And I had a run on the inside so I went in there and got way down on the flat and slipped sideways, trying to keep off him initially there and when I did, it snapped sideways into him and took him out.
"It's my fault. I hate that it happened, but you can't take it back. It is what it is. I'm sure he's pretty angry right now, but we'll go to the next one and keep on fighting with this TaxSlayer.com Chevy and try to get some points.''
Asked if he was surprised at all by Sadler's reaction, Smith shook his head.
"I'd be mad too, in the same situation. I'd be just as mad,'' Smith said. "I've raced Elliott clean for years, and it wasn't like it was intentional. I understand his anger.
"The flip side is I felt like I had a run and got taken down to the bottom and who knows. I don't want to make up any excuses and say I got junk on the tires. I know I didn't have the level of grip that I anticipated I was going to have on the corner. My right front got in his left rear.
"It wasn't intentional but it's going to be tough to tell him that right now.''
With the top five drivers in the standings separated by only 24 points and the top-10 within 69 points, it has been a tight championship run all season. The top five drivers -- Smith, Sam Hornish Jr., Austin Dillon, Justin Allgaier and Sadler -- have typically raced door-to-door with one another week after week.
Despite the tempers Saturday afternoon, Smith was confident that they would continue to race each other respectfully.
"You don't think, 'Oh, here's a guy in the points, I'm just going to run into him,'" Smith said. "You just think here's another position I can gain, let me try to make a pass here.
"I'd have been the happiest guy in the race if we'd just finished the race when it was three to go and that didn't work out. Just have to move on. ?there's so much racing to go.''
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