AVONDALE, Ariz. — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. moved a big step closer toward defending his Nationwide Series championship with a strong run at Phoenix International Raceway.
He also got some help from Elliott Sadler, who had a rough day start to finish.
The two title contenders started Saturday tied for the championship, and likely would have gone into next weekend’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway locked into a tight race.
But as Stenhouse battled Joey Logano and Brian Vickers for the lead headed to the white flag, Elliott Sadler imploded 10 positions behind them.
Sadler was racing hard for 12th with Justin Allgaier and Cole Whitt when he triggered a three-car accident.
The accident brought the race to a halt, and Sadler had to sit in his battered car as NASCAR cleaned the track.
Once cleared, he returned to pit road for some futile repairs, but the race went on without him into overtime.
Logano pulled away in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for his ninth win of the season, with Vickers finishing second. Stenhouse wound up third, and Sadler, his wounded car sputtering and sparking, was 22nd.
Sadler was 10 points behind Stenhouse before the accident, but now goes to the finale down by 20.