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Elliott Sadler wins NASCAR Nationwide Series race in Joliet

Elliott Sadler celebrates his victory Sunday Joliet. | Paul Bergstrom~For Sun-Times Media

Elliott Sadler celebrates his victory Sunday in Joliet. | Paul Bergstrom~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 24, 2012 6:16AM

Elliott Sadler wasn’t his usual self Sunday during the NASCAR Nationwide Series’
STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet. Sadler, the Nationwide points leader, hadn’t eaten in nearly three days after suffering from a stomach virus last week.

Despite feeling weak, though, Sadler held off hard-charging Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and defending champion Justin Allgaier on a green-white-checkered finish to earn his third victory this season and eighth in 182
Nationwide starts.

Sadler almost put his foot in his mouth when he told team owner Richard Childress on Saturday that he would be strong enough to race Sunday. There was a point on race day when Sadler was wondering whether he could get the job done.

‘‘I dug myself a hole when Richard asked me if I should think of a backup driver, and I [told] Richard I wouldn’t need one,’’ Sadler said. ‘‘I had to back it up today. I’m very weak. I had one biscuit this morning, and it felt like I had a huge breakfast.’’

Despite Sadler’s victory, the race appeared to be Stenhouse’s to lose. With about 34 laps left, Stenhouse was sitting in his car on pit road, getting fuel and four fresh tires, after having led most of the race. Victory seemed to be well within his reach.

But while Stenhouse was waiting to leave his pit stall, Brad Sweet spun out for the second time in the race to bring out a caution. When Stenhouse went back out, he was in 10th place and Sadler was in the lead.

Stenhouse had climbed back to within a second of Sadler’s lead when another caution came out with seven
laps left. On the restart, Stenhouse moved from
behind Sadler’s bumper back to third, then back behind Sadler again.

But Stenhouse didn’t have enough push, and Sadler crossed the finish line first. Stenhouse was second and Allgaier third.

Stenhouse led 135 laps and at one point led the field by a whopping six seconds.

‘‘We had the car to beat, but the cautions just kept falling their way, and we had to keep working our way back up the field,’’ said Stenhouse, who is going to run a full-time Sprint Cup Series schedule next year for Roush-Fenway Racing. ‘‘This sucks having a green-white-checkered to end it. There wasn’t anything I could do. We had it won.’’

Kenny Wallace, who finished fourth, didn’t clear
postrace inspection because his car was deemed ‘‘too light,’’ a NASCAR spokesperson said. A decision on Wallace will be made early this week, the spokesperson said.

Danica Patrick, who grew up in Roscoe, Ill., finished 14th.

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