BRISTOL — Elliott Sadler got out ahead of the pack and it was clear sailing to the checkered flag.
Sadler took advantage of a caution involving Kyle Busch and won the battle off of pit road to take the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“I won a race here before doing the same thing,” said Sadler, who won his second-career Nationwide race at the the half-mile and his second of 2012. “This is Bristol. I wanted this one worse than anything because I love this racetrack and for the time ever in my NASCAR career my parents are here for a win.”
“We were able to pull away at the end running some fast lap times. The guys made some great adjustments during the race to get me what I needed. After what I’ve been through the last few years in racing, this damn sure feels good.”
The race was controlled by reigning Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who passed local favorite Knoxville-native Trevor Bayne on lap 223.
Stenhouse pushed through lapped traffic and had a two-second advantage over Sadler and Brad Keselowski before Busch scraped the wall and prompted a late round of two-tire stops.
Sadler got out first and eased past Kasey Kahne when the green flag dropped. There was nobody close from that point forward.
“Elliott was strong when we went green,” said Kahne. “We were sliding the nose a little too much today. We ended up getting a good finsih for what we had.”
Kahne held on for second, followed by Keselowski, pole sitter Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Stenhouse was sixth, with Justin Allgaier, Bayne, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Truex wound out the top-ten.
Logano started atop the field and led the first 66 laps before a familiar face crept into his rear view mirror.
Busch, Logano’s Sprint Cup teammate, caught his foe in lapped traffic and nudged him out of the way on lap 67 to take control of the race. Rowdy’s stretch was stalled thanks to the first caution on lap 103 when Joey Gase lost control and made contact with the wall coming out of turn three.
Logano regained the lead on the afternoon’s first round of pit stops, and held off Busch from the high line when the green flag ushered in the restart.
A bad right side tire made Busch sink backwards and come in for a green flag pit stop, where he lost a lap. Another caution at the midway point ushered in the first series of two-tire stops, allowing Bayne to ascend to the top of the field with Stenhouse Jr. in tow.
T.J. Bell spun around through turns one and two on lap 165 to signal the third break in action, but Bayne maintained the lead until lap 223 when Stenhouse trapped Bayne in lap traffic and made a move to the front of the field.
Stenhouse controlled the race, pushing through lapped traffic until Busch tagged the wall on lap 262 to bring out the final caution which aided the victor Sadler.
“I thought with new tires, they were going to be able to go,” said Sadler, who has multiple wins for the first time since 1998. “Kasey Kahne got a great start and got his momentum up keeping everybody to the bottom. I knew if he was behind us, he would be able to hold everybody back.
“This car was so fast at the end of the race. I knew once we got clean air we would be in good shape.”
The St. Patrick’s Day race brought better luck for crowd-favorite Danica Patrick in her second trip to Bristol with a 19th place finish, an improvement over an accident-plagued 33rd place ending one year ago.