Sadler chasing Stenhouse again in Nationwide

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HOMESTEAD, FLA. (AP) - Elliott Sadler has come up with one way to possibly close the gap on points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. heading into the Nationwide Series finale.

“We might throw a banana peel under his trailer before the race starts and see if that will help him out a little bit,” Sadler joked Thursday.

It might be the only way to keep Stenhouse from repeating as series champion.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver takes a 20-point lead into the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway _ a significant, yet surmountable, advantage.

Sadler, who drives for Richard Childress Racing, has himself to blame for the deficit.

The two title contenders began last week’s race at Phoenix tied for the championship and likely would have arrived at Homestead locked in a tight battle. But as Stenhouse tried to chase down Joey Logano and Brian Vickers for the lead with two laps left, Sadler imploded behind them.

Sadler was racing for 12th with Justin Allgaier and Cole Whitt when he triggered a three-car accident. The wreck brought the race to a halt, forcing Sadler to sit in his battered car as NASCAR cleaned the track.

Five days later, Sadler was still kicking himself.

“I look back on it as a mistake and I talked to my team about it and could have done a better job,” Sadler said. “But I’ve got to come back this weekend 100 percent focused and ready to go and try to make up a really big deficit at a tough racetrack.

“It was a tough week. It’s been a long week just because I felt like I put ourselves in a really big hole.”

Sadler was in an even bigger hole this time last year.

Jason Leffler bumped Sadler with 25 laps remaining, knocking him out of the Phoenix race in 2011. The incident left Stenhouse with 41-point lead heading into the finale, making the Homestead race essentially a 200-lap victory parade.

Sadler has a better chance this time around.

Nonetheless, Stenhouse needs only to finish 16th or better _ or 17th or better with at least one lap led, or 18th or better with the most laps led _ Saturday to become the sixth driver in Nationwide history to win consecutive titles.

The drivers have swapped the points lead five times already this season, and Sadler would love to see it switch hands once more.

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