Column By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – TALLADEGA, AL – For the second consecutive week veteran Elliott Sadler claimed the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ $100,000 Dash 4 Cash incentive check – and this time, the veteran joked he’d spend the big money on his kids and . … celebrating his birthday on Monday.
“We go watch our kids play ball and maybe I’ll take a midafternoon nap because I am turning 43,’’ Sadler said smiling, “Maybe I need a Laz-Z-Boy. …that’s what happens at this age.”
He certainly wasn’t lagging any in Saturday afternoon’s Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Sadler led twice for 30 laps, but a pit road speeding penalty just past the midway mark forced him to the rear of the field and into a game of high-speed catch-up. Methodical work toward the front of the field plus nifty strategic moves on a race restart with two laps remaining allowed him to get back in the mix.
Sadler, won the second stage of the race and took the checkered flag in fifth – ahead of the other Dash 4 Cash eligible drivers, Christopher Bell (12th), Matt Tifft (25th) and Austin Cindric (30th).
“It feels good,’’ Sadler said. “For the day we had – the up and down day to battle back at the end, we restarted 17th or 18th and (JR Motorsports teammate) Justin (Allgaier) was on the lead lap and he gave me a great bump. When he went to the middle I got behind him just stayed with him.
“A lot happened on that last lap or two and I’m glad we were able to come along with the $100,000 and be in contention at Dover next week.”
Spencer Gallagher scored his first career win, leading only the final lap in the No. 23 Allegiant Chevrolet. He, Brandon Jones, Justin Allgaier and Sadler will now be eligible for the final $100,000 bonus check in the four-race Dash 4 Cash program next week at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
“I’m bummed we weren’t qualified for it today,’’ Allgaier said smiling. “I think we would have won it.’’
It certainly looked that way late in the race. Allgaier led 35 laps and was out front during the final caution period. But his No. 7 Chevrolet ran out of gas and he had to pit for fuel. His third place finish was an amazing two-lap rally from falling back after the pit stop.
All the drivers eligible for the big check at Talladega acknowledged it was an unusual day of twists and turns, as well.
The rookie Bell had to make a green flag stop early to repair a flat tire and spent the rest of the race in rally-mode. Tifft ran up front for a portion of the race as well, before having to make a green flag pit stop. And only a handful of laps after cracking the top-10, Austin Cindric spun out with 51 laps remaining. His No. 22 Ford didn’t hit any other cars or contact the wall and he made it to pit road for repairs and the restart.
“It was a very strange day,’’ Tifft said standing on pit road after the race. “The first two stages were kinda calm so I figured that third stage would be kind of wild. We still got lined up in lead pack and came down together and then there were two distinct different lines.
“The pack didn’t form up like it usually did and didn’t seem like anyone had any of those big shoves you normally expect. We were still a lap down [on the final restart] so just trying to see where to pick our battles. It’s frustrating, I think we had a good car and played a good strategy. We’ll get em at Dover.’’
Next week marks the first time ever the 21-year old Jones has qualified for the Dash 4 Cash program. It will be the second time for Gallagher, who was also eligible last week at Richmond.
“If I win the Xfinity Dash for Cash I’m taking every person at [his team] GMS out for dinner until I’m out of money or they are out of cows,’’ Gallagher said.
“You’re never seeing that check,’’ he joked to his father and team owner Maurice Gallagher