AVONDALE, Ariz. (February 27, 2011) — After a tough start to the 2011 season last weekend at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, the No. 2 Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) team packed up and headed west to the desert and Phoenix International Raceway looking to rebound. Sadler qualified in the 11th position for the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200, but fought a loose-handling race car the majority of the event. An ill-handling car coupled with trouble on pit road led to Sadler going a lap down to leader Kyle Busch late in the event. Sadler was able to catch a break receiving the “lucky dog” award making him eligible to rejoin the lead lap cars. However, with only a few laps remaining Sadler had to start at the tail-end of the longest line for the restart and was unable to advance his position beyond 12th.
“We had a good day with the No. 2 Fast Fixin’ Chevrolet, but track position was everything,” Sadler said after the race. “It was tough because it seemed like the track changed a lot from practice Friday to the race Saturday. We were too tight in practice so we loosened the car up and could just never get it back to the right balance during the race. We learned a lot today and I’m looking forward to continuing to build momentum as the season goes along.”
Sadler started the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 from the 11th position. As he battled the two Roush Fenway Racing teammates of Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse, Sadler radioed to crew chief Ernie Cope that the car was too loose. Sadler held the 10th position and was gaining on the leaders when the first caution of the day waved on lap 54. The No. 2 team brought the car to pit road for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment.
Even with the adjustments the No. 2 team was able to maintain track position sending Sadler out in the 10th position for the restart on lap 59. Stuck in the outside lane, Sadler slid back to the 15th position shortly after the field went back to green-flag racing. However, as the air pressures came up in the tires Sadler was able to slowly work his way back toward the front of the field. By lap 96, Sadler had climbed into the 11th position and continued to run laps as fast as the leaders. The caution flag waved for the second time on lap 106 when the No. 22 of Brad Keselowski blew a right-front tire.
The No. 2 team brought Sadler to pit road on lap 107 for four tires, fuel and a track-bar adjustment. Sadler returned to the track in the 11th position. However, after the stop the team realized that all the fuel had not been dispensed from the gas can. In 2011, the NASCAR’s top three touring series’ are using a new self venting fuel can which has eliminated the catch can man. The No. 2 team experienced a malfunction within that new system which prevented fuel from being released from the can. Sadler came back to pit road on lap 109 to put additional fuel in the No. 2 Chevrolet Impala.
Sadler restarted the race on lap 112 from the 15th position on the lead lap. Working his way through traffic, Sadler made his way up to the 13th position before the car became extremely loose. Despite running lap times comparable with the leaders, race leader and eventual winner, Busch had a solid lead on the field and placed Sadler one lap down on lap 158. As luck would have it the No. 2 team caught a quick caution on lap 164, just as the final round of pit stops were scheduled to begin. Sadler received the “lucky dog” award and was placed back on the lead lap.
The No. 2 team took advantage of the caution, coming down pit road to change four tires, add fuel and make multiple chassis adjustments as further efforts to try and fix the handling of the car. With only 29 laps remaining in the event, the race restarted with Sadler at the tail-end of the longest line due to the receiving the “lucky dog” award. He quickly managed to catch the 11th-place car of Jason Leffler, but was unable to make the pass before the checkered flag flew crossing the line in the 12th position.
Busch won the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 followed by Carl Edwards, Sadler’s KHI teammate Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Reed Sorenson. Sadler moved from 27th to 15th in the driver’s point standings. The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the third race of the season. Coverage begins live on ABC at 3 p.m., EST on Saturday March 5th.