William Byron Wins At Phoenix; Daniel Hemric Races Into The Championship 4by Camille Jones November 12, 2017
AVONDALE, Ariz. – William Byron captured the victory in Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Ticket Galaxy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway after a late-race, two-tire call on the final pit stop paid off. However, the battle for the final Championship 4 Playoff spot stole the headlines in the final laps of the event.
Byron’s win on Saturday afternoon marked his fourth of the 2017 season and his first at Phoenix. The Charlotte, North Carolina native was able to capture the win after leading just the final 17 laps in the race.
“We grinded all day,” Byron said. “Great job by this team. To make that pit call by Dave (crew chief, Elenz), that’s awesome man. We’re ready to go to Homestead. This one got robbed from me last year at Phoenix, so I got it back, and I just can’t thank these guys enough for that.”
The Ticket Galaxy 200 was battled to set the field for the final four drivers standing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs. The four drivers to make the cut will go head-to-head in a thrilling battle next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway to fight for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship.
Making the cut was race winner, William Byron, Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler and Daniel Hemric.
Byron secured enough points throughout the race to advance, but Allgaier and Sadler had to be careful. Both were able to secure points and make it into the Championship 4.
The incredible battle for the final spot came in the final run of the event. Hemric had just two points to spare over Cole Custer. The two drivers drove door-to-door for several laps, neither letting up for position. Hemric was able to let Custer stay ahead of him, but if Custer passed one more car, or Hemric was passed by another car, he would have been behind the cut line.
Custer got by Hemric, and the two held onto position for multiple laps. It wasn’t until Bell approached Hemric from behind that the fight around the track heated up. Bell soared by both Hemric and Custer at the same time, leaving them behind to battle it out amongst themselves.
The final transfer spot wasn’t decided until the two came to the line with Hemric ahead by just a car length. Hemric and his Richard Childress Racing team earned the fourth spot in the Championship 4, where he will go up against three JR Motorsports Chevrolets for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship.
“Luckily, I was able to get the 00 (Cole Custer) just loose enough as the 18 (Christopher Bell) got to the both of us,” said Hemric about his battle with Custer. The 18 cleared both of us, and it was a drag race obviously between us through (Turns) 3 and 4 coming to the line. Hats off to him, we both raced each other as hard as we could, not only today but all year, and for both of us to run each other like we did, not completely crash each other but do everything we could, everything we’ve grown up doing, that’s racing hard.”
After coming up just short of the Championship 4, Custer said, “We fought hard all day and did all we could to compete for a spot in the Championship Four. We have had fast Haas Automation Mustangs all year and just ran into bad luck in the second round of the playoffs. We would be in the final round if it weren’t for that bad luck. For a first-year team, rookie driver and rookie crew chief we competed at a high level. A huge thanks to everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing, Haas Automation, Ford Performance, Code 3 and everyone who has supported us this season. I’m sure we’ll come back next year stronger.”
Byron stole the victory in the Ticket Galaxy 200, while Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Christopher Bell and Daniel Hemric finished in the top-five. Blake Koch, Cole Custer, Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top-10.
Blaney earned the Stage 1 and Stage 2 wins over the course of the race. He led 147 of the 200 laps raced, while Erik Jones led 36 laps. Byron was the third and final leader of the afternoon.
The race to make the Championship 4 was mostly settled with clean, hard racing. However, on lap 24, Brennan Poole saw his Championship hopes come to an end when he and Cole Custer went three-wide with the slow, lapped car of Caesar Bacarella. Poole made contact with Bacarella as he tried to get by him on the low side, then made hard contact with the outside wall. His team was unable to repair the damage and he was sent to the garage.
The NASCAR XFINITY Series closes out the season with the Ford EcoBoost 300 next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The season finale will be held on Saturday, November 18 at 3:30 p.m. ET, and it will broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN).
Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images