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Elliott Sadler went from sick to stupendous, rallying late to capture Sunday's STP 300 Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Sadler, who also won a $100,000 bonus for the victory, had battled a flu bug for the previous three days, at one point spending 36 hours in bed. But when he arrived at the track Saturday, he felt the worst was behind him and was ready to race.
Give third-place finisher Justin Allgaier a big assist to Sadler's win, as he blocked runner-up Ricky Stenhouse Jr. several times in the green-white-checkered restart that turned the scheduled 200-lap event into a 201-lap finish.
Stenhouse eventually got past coming out of the final lap, but didn't have enough in his car to pass Sadler. Stenhouse had dominated much of the race, including winning the pole.
The final battle to the finish line was set up when, with seven laps remaining, Sam Hornish Jr. tapped the rear of Kyle Busch's car, sending it careening into Brendan Gaughan and putting both vehicles into the wall, bringing out the caution. While it was a tough break for both Gaughan and Busch, the incident was the best thing to happen for Stenhouse, as it set up a two-lap drag race to the checkered flag.
Busch finished 27th while Gaughan wound up right behind in 28th.
Stenhouse's bid for the victory was hurt when Brad Sweet spun for the second time in the race with 33 laps remaining, Stenhouse was caught on pit lane as the caution flag fell, dropping him from first to 10th when the race returned to green flag conditions.
Sadler assumed the lead at that point and never yielded in the remainder of the event.
Stenhouse got a great jump on the restart, rode around the track on the high line and began his quest to regain the lead, passing six cars and gaining three spots in the following two laps. He halved Sadler's two-second lead to just one in seven laps and appeared as if he would finish off what he started, but it was not to be.
Allgaier made a bid on the second-to-last lap to overtake Sadler, but didn't have a strong enough car. While he held off Stenhouse as long as he could, Allgaier eventually yielded to the pole-sitter.
Stenhouse wound up leading 135 of the 201 laps, while Sadler led 35.
Allgaier finished third, followed by an outstanding run by series veteran Kenny Wallace and Michael Annett.
Rounding out the top 10 were Austin Dillon, Parker Kligerman, Hornish, Cole Whitt and Ryan Truex.
Danica Patrick finished 14th, the last car on the lead lap.
NASCAR CHICAGOLAND NATIONWIDE SERIES RACE RESULTS
1. (15) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 201.
2. (1) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 201.
3. (16) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 201.
4. (11) Kenny Wallace, Toyota, 201.
5. (14) Michael Annett, Ford, 201.
6. (2) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 201.
7. (5) Parker Kligerman, Dodge, 201.
8. (3) Sam Hornish Jr., Dodge, 201.
9. (8) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 201.
10. (9) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 201.
11. (6) Brian Scott, Toyota, 201.
12. (7) Mike Bliss, Toyota, 201.
13. (22) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, 201.
14. (13) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 201.
15. (18) James Buescher, Chevrolet, 200.
16. (24) Mike Wallace, Chevrolet, 200.
17. (32) Travis Pastrana, Toyota, 200.
18. (25) Timmy Hill, Ford, 200.
19. (21) Brad Sweet, Chevrolet, 200.
20. (28) Josh Richards, Ford, 199.
21. (12) Johanna Long, Chevrolet, 199.
22. (27) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 199.
23. (17) Jason Bowles, Toyota, 198.
24. (19) Eric McClure, Toyota, 198.
25. (30) Tayler Malsam, Toyota, 197.
26. (35) Tanner Berryhill, Toyota, 194.
27. (4) Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 193.
28. (10) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, Accident, 192.
29. (20) Jamie Dick, Chevrolet, 192.
30. (26) Erik Darnell, Chevrolet, 179.
31. (36) Benny Gordon, Chevrolet, Transmission, 60.
32. (33) Danny Efland, Chevrolet, Engine, 47.
33. (37) Tim Schendel, Chevrolet, Engine, 28.
34. (41) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Handling, 19.
35. (40) Matt Carter, Chevrolet, Handling, 18.
36. (29) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, Ignition, 14.
37. (39) Tim Andrews, Ford, Rear Gear, 13.
38. (38) TJ Bell, Chevrolet, Vibration, 13.
39. (42) Mike Harmon, Chevrolet, Overheating, 12.
40. (34) Chase Miller, Chevrolet, Vibration, 11.
41. (31) Stephen Leicht, Chevrolet, Clutch, 6.
42. (43) Carl Long, Chevrolet, Overheating, 4.
43. (23) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 4.
After spending more than half the year on the road, NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Danica Patrick is glad to be back in her home state of Illinois.
The driver of the No. 7 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet grew up in Roscoe, Ill., just outside of Rockford, the state's second-largest city and less than two hours from Chicagoland Speedway.
"As a kid, I loved going into the city and downtown Chicago," Patrick said. "It's a beautiful place. We have some friends coming out to the track this weekend. It's close to home and that's good. We'll see some familiar faces, and hopefully we can have a good weekend."
Patrick has two prior starts at Chicagoland Speedway in a Nationwide Series car, finishing 24th in her debut in 2010, and then showing dramatic improvement with a 10th-place finish there last year.
"The mile-and-a-halfs are definitely more of our strength," said Patrick, currently ninth in the Nationwide standings. "It was a decent race here last year. Fuel came into play a little bit at the end, and it very well could again.
"Watching past races, there's not always a ton of yellows here. We'll just work on having a good, consistent car here this weekend."
There will be one distinct difference from last year's race to Sunday's, though: the 2011 event was run under the lights, while Sunday's race will be in the heat of the afternoon.
"I don't think it'll make a huge difference," Patrick said. "The car does transition through a little bit of changes as it gets cooler and darker, but it's usually not so far out of the ballpark that you can't make little adjustments through the race, keep up with it and fix a problem.
"Maybe if it's hot and slippery like it's supposed to be, there could be more opportunities for yellows happening during the race just because it's more challenging conditions." Temperatures are expected in the low-to-mid 90s.
PATRICK READY FOR TOTALLY DIFFERENT INDY
Patrick returns to Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend to race for the first time since she became a full-time NASCAR competitor this season.
But instead of driving an Indy car, she'll be competing in the first-ever Nationwide Series race to be held at the fabled Brickyard.
Patrick is prepared for a much different event, having already strategized what she'll have to do behind the wheel of a much different vehicle.
"In an Indy car, there's no lifting and it's right around the bottom of the track, and it's a big, high-speed chess match with cars running very close to each other," Patrick said. "In a stock car, you run a more traditional line, there's lifting and perspective-wise, they definitely have a different feel based on the lines you run, and the fact that in IndyCar, you sit so low.
"It happens everywhere I go and when I've been there in an Indy car to a stock car, it's always just a little bit different."
THE FLU KNOWS NO SEASON
Nationwide Series drivers Elliott Sadler and defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. both came to Chicago under the weather, each one battling a flu bug as they race for $100,000 in the second race of the Nationwide Insurance Dash 4 Cash.
Sadler spent nearly 36 hours in bed prior to coming to the track on Saturday morning.
"I think I got a stomach virus from my son," Sadler said. "He had it last weekend."
Even though Sadler tweeted in the morning that he was ailing, Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon, who won the opening Dash 4 Cash race last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, apparently missed it.
When Sadler was asked about how he was feeling and revealed how sick he had actually been the last three days, he looked over at Dillon during a news conference in the speedway's media center and quipped, "You might want to get away from me, Austin. Yeah, good move."
Dillon moved his chair a few feet in the opposite direction and then covered his mouth.
"I didn't know he was sick," Dillon deadpanned.
On a more serious note, Sadler said he hopes to be close to normal health-wise in Sunday's race, noting that hydration -- particularly with temperatures expected in the low-to-mid 90s -- will be key.
"I'm on the back side (of the illness) and hopefully by tomorrow we'll feel a little better," Sadler said. "I've just got to keep getting better. If I'd have raced yesterday or this morning, I'd have really had a hard time. But I actually feel myself getting better.
"We'll gradually work our way back up fluid-wise and stuff like that to be make sure I'm hydrated as much as I can for (Sunday)."
Sadler couldn't avoid one last good-natured shot at his teammate, who was scrambling for hand sanitizer when Sadler joked, "I hope it's not contagious, Austin."
PATIENCE NOT A VIRTUE FOR PASTRANA
Patience was never a virtue when Travis Pastrana raced motorcycles. He simply kick-started his bike, took off and held on for the ride of his life.
But Pastrana is learning that racing on four wheels is a bit more methodical -- and certainly requires more patience -- than two-wheel racing.
Fortunately for the impatient Pastrana, he's getting a lot of help from driver coach and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor Matt Crafton, who happens to be one of the most patient drivers in NASCAR.
"I see the carrot in front of me and (Crafton's) like, 'Just slow down your entry.' I'm like, 'They're pulling away.' He's like, 'Look, this is how fast you setup the car, this is as fast as you can come in and you have to beat them coming off the corner.' I want to just come in like in motocross and everything else has been about aggression.
"So for me, (it's difficult) to be patient with the driving and keeping from burning the right rear completely off the tire and not being sideways. The harder I try to drive these cars, the slower I drive. I want to keep getting in there and keep getting more experience."
There's no question Pastrana is talented, be it on two or four wheels. Crafton likes what he sees in his young charge.
"He's very good to work with and learn and wants to do this," Crafton said of Pastrana. "I mean, he really truly wants to do this, and he will get it.
"Honestly, I didn't know if I was going to like (coaching Pastrana). But he's been so willing to learn and wanting to learn so much, that's what is so awesome about it."
Pastrana will make his sixth Nationwide Series start in Sunday's STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. He's looking for a better finish than he's had in his first five efforts: 22nd (Richmond), 17th (Darlington), 26th (Iowa), 24th (Charlotte) and 31st last week at Loudon.
KLIGERMAN, BUSCH ATOP NATIONWIDE PRACTICE LEADERBOARD
Parker Kligerman is going for the Camping World Truck Series championship, but that didn't keep him from turning the fastest lap during Saturday's second Nationwide Series practice.
Driving the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge, Kligerman topped the field with a best lap of 172.695 mph, one of only two drivers to exceed 172 mph, the other being Danica Patrick (172.601 mph).
The drivers making up the rest of final practice's top 10 were Austin Dillon (171.799 mph), rookie Cole Whitt (171.641 mph), Kyle Busch (171.510 mph), Brendan Gaughan (171.429 mph), Justin Allgaier (171.342 mph), Michael Annett (171.227 mph), Ryan Truex (170.568 mph) and Mike Bliss (170.503 mph).
In Saturday morning's first practice, Busch paced the field with a speed of 171.450 mph, followed by Sadler (171.021 mph), Sam Hornish Jr. (170.951 mph), Stenhouse Jr. (170.740 mph) and Kligerman (170.622 mph).
Rounding out the top 10 in the morning practice were Whitt (170.159 mph), Truex (170.025 mph), Dillon (169.651 mph), Brian Scott (169.635 mph) and James Buescher (169.566 mph).
When James Buescher was forced to pit to change carburetors during the course of Saturday night's American Ethanol 225, any chance of winning appeared lost, especially when he got back on track two laps down.
Buescher not only made up those two laps, he needed just one lap -- the final one -- to grab the lead and go on to win his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series-leading third race of the season at Chicagoland Speedway.
Leading just six laps in the entire event, Buescher passed points leader Timothy Peters and then held off Brendan Gaughan, who led 83 of the 150 laps, to win his second race in the last three events.
"We had issues early on where we kept losing power, so we decided to pit, changed the carburetor and the car came to life," Buescher said. "From there, it was a matter of getting our laps back and going forward from there."
And then, with a smile on his face, Buescher added, "We just had to pass 20 other trucks to win."
Gaughan was looking to get his first Trucks win in nearly nine years, and it appeared he would do just that, given how strong he and his Chevrolet truck looked early on. After spinning his tires on a late restart, he valiantly rallied from sixth to settle for second place.
"I think about not winning (since 2003) every single day," Gaughan said. "I thought tonight might finally be our night. But still, to run the way we did, and the great equipment Richard Childress gave us, this was really a great run, especially since we're only racing a part-time schedule."
Rather than risk wrecking on the final lap, points leader Peters wisely played it safe, finishing third. Matt Crafton finished fourth and Parker Kligerman rounded out the top 5.
"We did the right thing, used the right strategy and padded our points lead," Peters said. "You can't ask for much more than that - other than winning."
Rounding out the top 10 were Cale Gale, Ron Hornaday Jr, Jason Leffler, Jason White and David Starr.
With six laps left, pole-sitter Justin Lofton slammed into the outside wall, bringing out the final caution of the race, setting up a shootout to the checkered flag between Peters and Buescher.
Gaughan, starting only his fourth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race of the season, was hoping for his first NCWTS win since Oct. 11, 2003 at Texas Motor Speedway, his sixth triumph of that season. Unfortunately, he would come up short, extending his current winless streak to 130 races.
Bryan Silas' spin on lap 8 brought out the first caution flag, right after Miguel Paludo and Ron Hornaday Jr. got together. Paludo bounced off Hornaday and slapped the wall, damaging the right side of his Silverado and forcing him to pit for right-side tires.
Eight laps later, although there was no resulting caution, Johnny Sauter bounced into Nelson Piquet Jr., causing heavy damage that cost Piquet a number of laps on pit road as the damage was repaired.
After getting back on the track, Piquet was forced back to pit road when the splitter on his truck snapped off, prompting a replacement and eventually causing him to miss 36 of the first 75 laps.
On Lap 45, Jason Leffler missed his pit box, forcing him to go all the way around the 1.5-mile track. Then to make matters worse, Leffler's crew struggled to perform necessary service. As a result, Leffler went from being a top-five truck prior to his mistake to nearly two laps down.
Others also suffered pit stop mishaps, most notably drivers having issues finding their appropriate pix box, including series veterans Todd Bodine and Ron Hornaday Jr.
The yellow caution flag came out for a second time on lap 71 for debris. On the resulting pit stop, Gaughan came in only for fuel, allowing him to retain his lead over the rest of the field.
When Jennifer Jo Cobb brought out the caution flag for the third time due to a single truck spin, Buescher was forced to pit for a lengthy stop as his team replaced a faulty carburetor.
Chris Fontaine brought out the fourth caution of the race with 51 laps remaining following a solo spin.
Joey Coulter had one of the fastest trucks throughout the two practice sessions, qualified on the outside pole and remained in the top five for much of the first two-thirds of the race, but got caught up in a wreck with 44 laps left. His crew quickly repaired the damage and got him back on track (in 18th position) without losing a lap.
Four drivers were sent to the back of the field to start the race: Parker Kligerman and Chad McCumbee, both for adjustments after impound, and points leader Timothy Peters for and engine change and Johnny Sauter for missing the pre-race drivers meeting.
Several drivers reached significant milestones in their respective careers:
--Just one lap before halfway through the 150-lap event, four-time series champion Hornaday became the second driver in NCWTS history to complete 50,000 laps in his career. Hornaday finished 6th.
--Todd Bodine, who made his 200th series start, became the first driver to earn at least 200 starts in each of NASCAR's three premier series: NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, finished 18th.
--David Starr became the fifth driver in series history to reach 300 starts. Starr finished 10th.
With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on an off-weekend, the Nationwide and Truck Series stand on their own with a pair of races this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.
Here's a look at the schedule for Chicagoland – with the ARCA information included as well – if you're interested in keeping track of the action (all times EASTERN; track is on Central):
5:30 p.m. – Camping World Truck Series practice (1 hour, 20 minutes)
7 p.m. – ARCA final practice (2 hours)
9:10 p.m. – Camping World Truck Series final practice (50 minutes)
10:30 a.m. – ARCA qualifying
12:10 p.m. – Nationwide Series practice (1 hour, 20 minutes)
2 p.m. – Nationwide Series final practice (1 hour, 20 minutes)
3:35 p.m. – Camping World Truck Series qualifying
5 p.m. – ARCA race (100 laps, 150 miles)
8 p.m. – Camping World Truck Series race (150 laps, 225 miles)
11:35 a.m. – Nationwide Series qualifying
3 p.m. – Nationwide Series race (200 laps, 300 miles)
There's something to be said for longevity. In Todd Bodine's case, being competitive counts for even more.
Bodine will make his 200th start in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition in Saturday's American Ethanol 225 (8 p.m. ET, SPEED) at Chicagoland Speedway. The milestone will make the 48-year-old veteran the first driver to make at least 200 starts in all three NASCAR national series.
"It's a great stat, a great place to be in my career," said Bodine, the 2006 and 2010 truck series champ. "When I got started, I never dreamed of getting to this point. I didn't know as a kid where it was going to go or what it was going to lead to, I just know I wanted to go fast and go in circles. I've been very fortunate to have a long, successful career in a sport that I love. And to be able to do it in three different series, it's a pretty neat deal."
Bodine -- who's mired in 11th place in the standings -- hasn't had the most stellar season thus far, but he did return to Victory Lane for the first time since September 2010 with a rain-shortened win last month at Dover International Speedway. After splitting a shaky 2011 between Germain Racing and the former Randy Moss-owned team, Bodine has found a comfortable landing place this year with Red Horse Racing's team owner Tom DeLoach and crew chief Rick Gay Jr.
"Rick and myself have been running well, but we've just had some bad luck," Bodine said, "but everything is there (for us) to do this and run up front, and I really believe we can."
Red Horse teammate Timothy Peters broke into the win column last week at Iowa Speedway, stretching his points lead and becoming the truck series' eighth different winner in nine events. Peters leads second-place Justin Lofton, the winner earlier this season at Charlotte, by 12 points and sits 14 points ahead of top rookie Ty Dillon, who ranks third.
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