Elliott Sadler stands on his car in victory lane after winning Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series 300 auto race in Bristol, Tenn., Saturday, March 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Autostock, Nigel Kinrade)
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Elliott Sadler went 14 years without a victory in the Nationwide Series. Now, he has two in the last three weeks.
Sadler picked up his second victory of the season Saturday when his crew chief left him out on the track on old tires during the final caution at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The call put Sadler in the lead on the final restart, with 28 laps remaining, and he easily held off Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski.
Prior to his win two weeks ago at Phoenix, Sadler had not won in the Nationwide Series since Oct. 31, 1998, at Rockingham. That also was the last season he won multiple races in the Nationwide Series, and the year he scored his only other win at Bristol in the second-tier series.
"To win two of the first four races is awesome, and we've got to keep adding to them. There's blood in the water," said Sadler, the Nationwide Series points leader.
"After what I've been through the last couple of years in racing, this damn sure feels good."
Sadler raced to his first career Sprint Cup victory at Bristol in 2001, when he stayed out on old tires and pulled off an improbable victory.
Crew chief Luke Lambert was a senior in high school watching that 2001 race from the grandstands, and decided Saturday to borrow that strategy.
Kyle Busch brought out the final caution of the race with 38 laps to go, and most everyone headed to the pits. Lambert left Sadler on the track, even as Sadler protested the decision.
"That was a great call by Luke. He reminded me I won a race here in 2001 by doing the same thing, staying out," Sadler said. "I wanted this one worse than anything because I love this race track so much."
Kahne finished second and was followed by Brad Keselowski, who praised Sadler's Richard Childress Racing car.
"I am sure a lot of people will make a lot about Elliott staying out there, but he had a fast car," Keselowski said. "He drove by me under green there, right before the yellow came out, and I think he was legitimately running the fastest lap times.
"He had a fast car. You can't say he won that in strategy in my mind. He's been doing a good job."
Kahne, who was teammates with Sadler in the Cup Series, said Sadler is driving with a renewed confidence.
"I watch Elliott right now, and I see him, he's as happy as he's been," Kahne said. "He's a good racer and right now he has a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum. He's walking around smiling, and he's confident with his car and his team.
"I am happy for him. I am glad he's running well. He ran great last year in the Nationwide Series and I think he's doing a good job this year. Off to a couple wins early. I think he'll get a shot to run some more Cup races as time goes on."
Sadler, who ran 12 full seasons in Cup and made the Chase for the championship in 2004, ran the season-opening Daytona 500 for RCR.
Michael Waltrip Racing then announced a limited deal for Sadler to drive the Cup races Mark Martin sits out, but the plug was pulled on that shortly after his win at Phoenix marked him as a strong Nationwide title contender.
Sadler ran for the Nationwide title last season, but went winless and finished second to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. of Roush Fenway Racing in the final standings.
Stenhouse led 41 laps late, but lost the lead on the final caution and finished sixth. He trails Sadler by 25 points in the standings.
Joey Logano led a race high 119 laps and finished fourth, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fifth.
Justin Allgaier was seventh and was followed by Trevor Bayne, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Truex.
Bayne was a late addition to the race, added mid-week after RFR officials decided not to pull him because of a lack of sponsorship.
Bayne, who is ranked third in the series standings, believes team owner Jack Roush is sending him to California next week despite a lack of sponsor.
"Jack's got two stout teams here running hard, and two drivers that are hopefully the future for his company," Bayne said. "That is what we want to be. Ricky and I push each other hard and we did both lead laps and hopefully he is proud of that."
All four Nationwide races this season have been won by drivers who don't compete in the elite Sprint Cup Series. It marks the first time since 1995 Cup drivers have been shut out over the first month of the season.