Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Pardon the cliché but that’s what Elliott Sadler is saying about Saturday night’s NASCAR Xfinity championship race in which he was runner-up to teammate William Byron for the title. It’s the fourth time Sadler has been runner-up in the last seven years.
“To be that close and not win a championship is frustrating,’’ said the 42-year-old Sadler to nbcsports.com. “I don’t have many years left, and I wanted to try to fulfill a childhood dream.”
Sadler has been a NASCAR mainstay for years. Popular and likeable. He’s never won a title in any of NASCAR’s top series. To hear him tell it, though, Saturday night’s finish wasn’t due to any fault of his own but the selfish driving of Ryan Preece. In the race video, you can see Preece blocking Sadler’s line…his path to success…and Byron slips through on the inside. When Sadler pushes, he makes contact with Preece and then hits the wall.
“We were in position to win this championship,’’ Sadler said. “We were there. He (Preece) raced me hard and held me down and (Byron) got a run on us and he let Byron go. Very frustrating.’’
Sadler pretty much says Preece made a cheap move. And he goes after Preece post-race to the point race officials have to keep them separated.
Let’s be clear on what this was and wasn’t. This wasn’t Denny Hamlin/Chase Elliott type of driving. Watching the video, it was straight up racing. And Sadler’s own comments seal the defense for Preece. “He raced me hard.” What? Another race car driver made it difficult for you to win a title? Veteran NASCAR driver Regan Smith took to Twitter to defend Preece.
Preece said all the right things afterward. He was humble, he was respectful of Sadler, but he stood up for himself and his team. From his perspective, there was an owner’s title to race for.
Sadler is not buying any of the arguments and thinks someone who isn’t even in contention for the driver’s title has no business challenging him like that.
“I didn’t know it was going to come down to a guy that’s not even racing for anything to hold us down like that,” said Sadler “No respect at all.’’
So I must have missed something. At what point did Sadler think NASCAR turned into the sport of gentlemen? Heck, in what sport, any sport, does Sadler think an opponent is not supposed to give you his best and simply step aside?
Watch the video. Listen to the comments. You tell me, was Preece completely in the wrong?