Sadler tops points after Erik Jones’ Xfinity sweep in Texas
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Elliott Sadler kept losing ground late while Erik Jones cruised to a Texas season sweep in the NASCAR Xfinity Series on Saturday night.
The veteran driver gained on the competition that mattered most, though.
Jones led 137 of 200 laps for the first Texas sweep of NASCAR’s No. 2 circuit in eight years, and Sadler took the points lead with one race remaining to set the final four in the run for the series championship.
“We were able to do things that we needed to do to get ourselves in pretty decent position going to Phoenix,” Sadler said. “That’s what our goal was as we entered the weekend and we feel like we did that.”
Jones and fellow Cup driver Ryan Blaney pulled away from Sadler over the final 30 laps in Jones’ third Xfinity victory of the season and third in six tries on the 1.5-mile Texas track.
Sadler was the top finisher among the playoff contenders, taking fourth, one spot ahead of fellow playoff driver Cole Custer. Sadler moved up from third in the point standings, five ahead of William Byron, who took ninth.
Justin Allgaier, the points leader coming in, finished 11th and dropped to third in points. Brennan Poole, who took seventh, is fourth in points, 24 back.
The championship field for the finale at Homestead will be set next week in Phoenix.
“Phoenix is a tricky track with the dogleg on the back and people using the apron and cutting across,” Sadler said. “That place can get wild. I don’t think any points is a really safe margin to have.”
Jones qualified on the pole a couple of hours before the race and led the entire first stage, covering 46 laps. He trailed through the middle before taking over again late. Jones and Blaney made late fuel-only pit stops.
The first two Xfinity wins for Jones were back-to-back in the spring at Texas and Bristol, Tennessee. He’s the first with an Xfinity sweep at Texas since Kyle Busch in 2009.
“The first time I came here in a truck, I’ll never forget, I never thought I’d like the place and ever since then it’s just kind of clicked for me,” Jones said.
Matt Tifft, who was sent to the back of the field for a crew member coming over the wall early on a pit stop, recovered the finish eighth and is fifth in points. He’s five points behind Poole, who holds the final qualifying spot at the moment.
Custer bounced back from an early flat tire and moved from eighth to sixth in points. He trails Poole by 13 points.
“I can’t really say I’m too upset or too down going into Phoenix or anything,” Custer said. “It’s just that two weeks in a row just had some bad luck.”
Cup driver Kyle Larson was third.
Christopher Bell, coming off his first Xfinity win in Kansas and competing about 200 miles south of his hometown of Norman, Oklahoma, pulled his car out of a spin about halfway through the race and finished sixth.
More AP Auto Racing: http://racing.ap.org