SPARTA, Ky. — Elliott Sadler took the lead with four laps remaining and held off Daniel Suarez by 0.246 seconds to win the inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series Chase race Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.
Sadler pushed his No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevy Camaro from 15th with 50 laps remaining for his third series victory this season and the first spot in the eight-driver second round that begins at Kansas Speedway on Oct. 15.
Sadler previously competed in the inaugural Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2004, finishing ninth. He finished second in 2011 and 2012 in the Xfinity Series and is seeking his first title. He was 13 career series wins.
“We fought through a lot tonight,” Sadler said. “We had a 10th- or 15th-place car at best. We decided to come in, really take our time and work on it. We had good calls by (crew chief) Kevin (Meendering) and the guys to get us in position.
“This team has no quit in it, we just fight to the end. This is a great way to start the Chase.”
Sadler dedicated his victory to his mother, nicknamed “Mama Belle,” who is battling an illness and underwent two surgeries this week.
Suarez struggled with a tight condition all night, but was best at the end of the race.
“Right at the end, we were pretty good, maybe just a little tight but we were strong,” Saurez said. “I feel like we were the fastest car out there at the end. I just needed one or two laps more to get the win.”
Ryan Blaney was third, followed by Sam Hornish Jr. and Matt Tifft.
Erik Jones, who entered the race with the championship lead, was denied a series win at Kentucky for the second time this season despite leading the 300-mile event five times for 100 laps.
Jones’ chance for victory was derailed with 13 laps remaining when his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was knocked out of contention after tangling with Ty Dillon’s No. 3 Chevy at the exit of Turn 4.
“I just got sucked around,” Jones said. “I tried to slow down but Ty was holding me down there pretty tight on the restart, slamming doors through 1 and 2. It was my fault, but it’s a pretty tough aero situation to be in.
“I just couldn’t hang on to it. I tried to slow down but he kept slamming down on my door and I did all I could to hang on to it. It definitely looks like we’re going to have to run really well at Dover and Charlotte or even win.”
Jones finished 28th, one spot behind fellow Chase contender Dillon.