By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
AVONDALE, Ariz. - Elliott Sadler saw his NASCAR Nationwide Series championship hopes all but disappear on Lap 175 of the Wypall 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Sadler, who entered the race 17 points behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 27th and fell 41 points out of the lead. Stenhouse Jr. clinches the title with a finish of 37th or better; 38th and at least one lap led; 39th with most laps led at Homestead.
After cutting across Phoenix's backstretch dogleg, Sadler moved back up the track well clear of Jason Leffler and polesitter Aric Almirola, who were racing side-by-side.
At the entrance to Turn 3, a tap from Leffler's Chevrolet spun Sadler, whose No. 2 Chevrolet slammed into the outside wall, collecting Almirola in the process. Morgan Shepherd's Chevrolet was destroyed when the 70-year-old driver got up into the marbles trying to avoid the wreck.
"I'm sure that the video shows that the 38 (of Leffler) just ran right into the back of us," Sadler said. "Not much respect for guys running for the championship. It's very frustrating. You work all season long to put yourself in a situation, and it all goes away in a split second."
Leffler accepted responsibility for the wreck.
"I was racing Aric, but I take full responsibility," Leffler said. "I ran right into the back of him. It wasn't on purpose. It was a mistake on my part. I feel bad for him and his guys. When a guy slides across like that, it kills all the momentum. He's a good driver, a smart driver, so obviously he lifted early to keep from blowing the corner.
"I was racing Aric and just made a mistake. It's all my fault. That's the last thing I wanted to do to Elliott and his guys."