Suddenly, the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway has taken on a completely different meaning for Elliott Sadler.
Just two weeks ago, Sadler was the points leader following the weekend at Kansas Speedway and thinking he would have one last shot at the championship that had eluded him before retiring at the end of the season.
He even entered Saturday’s Whelen 200 third in the standings and 13 points above the cutline — a safe position to be in all things considered.
But after qualifying sixth, Sadler immediately went backwards and never truly contended for a position inside the top-10. He finished the opening stage in 11th, receiving no stage points as a result. That placed him only three points above the cutline and at risk of elimination should a contender below him in the standings win.
And that’s exactly what happened as Christopher Bell delivered on his must-win dilemma.
Upon crossing the finish line and accepting that he wouldn’t race for a championship in his final race, Sadler radioed to his crew and told him that he screwed up and was ‘sorry’ for costing them an opportunity.
What did he mean?
"I can't even look these guys in the face," Sadler said. "We tried some different things today and I led the team in that direction. I take full responsibility for that. My guys did so much for me this year and we were so fast at the right time.
"Not closing the deal at Texas and what happened here cost us, and look, that's on me. I'm the driver. That was my feedback that put us in this position. I just wish my guys were amongst the four racing at Homestead."
Even though Sadler had made peace with the fact that his career was coming to a close this season, he admits that he kind of pushed it to the background because he expected to race for a championship that weekend.
Now that he’s not, that event takes on a completely different meaning.
"That's a good question," Sadler said. "I don't know. It's my last race. I've been doing this every weekend since I was seven, putting a helmet on. So, it's going to be emotional. It's going to be more relaxing not racing for a championship, but it's going to suck too.
"I really wish my guys were going down there to race for a championship. It's really about them than it is about me."
Elliott Sadler says he won't be able to look his guys in the face because it was his feedback and set-up decisions that put them behind this weekend. pic.twitter.com/2gWvitxpzG
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