Elliott Sadler's bid for redemption in the NASCAR Nationwide Series got a significant boost after the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway.
Sadler finished third, but finds himself atop the series standings. Race winner James Buescher made the preseason choice to compete for the championship in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and runner-up Brad Keselowski has his efforts focused on the Sprint Cup title.
Those decisions helped give Sadler a tenuous early grasp on the Nationwide points race, just two points ahead of rookie Cole Whitt and three ahead of fellow first-year driver Austin Dillon, last year's trucks champ.
Last season at Phoenix, Sadler's hopes for his first Nationwide crown fell apart in a late-race crash. Sadler's 27th-place finish gave an insurmountable points lead to Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who cashed in the following week for his first series title.
Sadler had just completed a shortcut across the apron on Phoenix's backstretch dogleg before his wreck. He blended back into traffic after making a three-wide pass, but was nudged from behind by Jason Leffler, triggering a multicar accident.
"If I had to do it all over again, I would still do it the same move," Sadler said earlier this week. "I don't feel like I was too aggressive, and I don't feel like I ran those guys up the track. I actually feel like I did it the cleanest possible way that I could. We saw it in the Sprint Cup Series race that Sunday, people were passing each other on the apron the day after I was wrecked. I promise you, you are going to see it again this spring at Phoenix."