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Byron Lords Over Xfinity Series

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, November 19 2017

William Byron made memories by winning the 2017 Xfinity Series championship on Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

William Byron won the 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship and also became the 2017 Rookie of the Year on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he finished two places behind race-winner Cole Custer.

Byron is only the second driver to win the Series championship in his rookie season (Chase Elliott being the other in 2014).

Byron outlasted Championship 4 competitors Elliott Sadler (eighth), Justin Allgaier (12th) and Daniel Hemric (34th) in the race.

This season, Byron drove the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet to four wins, 12 top fives and 22 top 10s. His victories came at Iowa, Daytona, Indianapolis and Phoenix, which helped propel him to a lofty position in the standings – from race No. 2-33, he never dropped lower than fifth in the standings.

Custer took the checkered flag 15.405 seconds ahead of second-place Sam Hornish Jr., who delivered the owners’ championship to Roger Penske. The real action, however, occurred three-quarters of a lap behind the winner.

Sadler had passed Byron, his JR Motorsports teammate on Lap 165 of 200. The 42-year-old veteran stayed out front until Lap 191, when he closed on the No. 18 Toyota of Ryan Preece and lost momentum. Byron charged past Sadler into third place—and into the lead among the four drivers battling for the title.

With four laps left, Sadler pulled up to Byron’s bumper. Byron shot past Preece’s Toyota, clearing him to the inside. Sadler tried to follow but couldn’t complete the pass, and slid up into Preece’s Camry, with the right front of Sadler’s No. 1 Chevrolet clipping the left rear of the Toyota.

Sadler hit the wall and his title hopes were gone.

“I don’t know that I took a breath the last 20 laps,” Byron said. “That was incredible. I just have to thank this team. This is awesome. Elliott raced me clean, and we just raced hard for it. I just can’t believe this.

“I can’t believe this. I’m tired, whew. I’ve never driven that hard in my life.”

Team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. had his share of nervous moments as his drivers fought for the championship.

“Man, that is tough watching those guys battle like that together,” Earnhardt said. “William did a great job running an awesome race. To be as young as he is, he drove like a veteran tonight. I know Elliott is probably really disappointed. It’s hard to watch any of your guys lose one, but at least we will be taking the trophy back to Mooresville tonight.

“This is great for JRM and all our employees. One thing about William winning, the over-the-wall guys I’m pretty close to a lot of them. They pit my car, too (in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series). It’s pretty cool to see these guys enjoy themselves. This really effects a lot of people.  I’m really glad to be a part of it.”

Custer led 182 laps and scored a perfect driver rating of 150.0, the only time a driver has accomplished that feat this year.

“We knew we were going be really good this weekend, but our Haas Automation Mustang was unreal,” Custer said. “We really wanted to have a good showing at Ford Championship Weekend.  Even though we weren’t in it (the Championship 4), we wanted to win.”

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NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – Ford EcoBoost 300

Homestead-Miami Speedway

Homestead, Florida

Saturday, November 18, 2017

  1. (2) Cole Custer #, Ford, 200.
  2. (8) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 200.
  3. (6) William Byron # (P), Chevrolet, 200.
  4. (1) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 200.
  5. (5) Ryan Preece, Toyota, 200.
  6. (7) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 200.
  7. (10) Matt Tifft #, Toyota, 200.
  8. (14) Elliott Sadler (P), Chevrolet, 200.
  9. (18) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 199.
  10. (9) Ty Majeski, Ford, 199.
  11. (12) Casey Mears, Ford, 199.
  12. (16) Justin Allgaier (P), Chevrolet, 199.
  13. (23) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 199.
  14. (20) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 199.
  15. (17) Corey LaJoie, Toyota, 199.
  16. (11) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 199.
  17. (19) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 198.
  18. (25) Ben Kennedy #, Chevrolet, 198.
  19. (28) Spencer Gallagher #, Chevrolet, 198.
  20. (15) Ryan Reed, Ford, 198.
  21. (13) Scott Lagasse Jr., Chevrolet, 198.
  22. (21) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 198.
  23. (29) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 197.
  24. (26) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 196.
  25. (27) Ray Black II, Chevrolet, 196.
  26. (24) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 196.
  27. (22) Joe Nemechek(i), Chevrolet, 196.
  28. (33) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 196.
  29. (32) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 195.
  30. (36) Chad Finchum, Toyota, 194.
  31. (30) Caesar Bacarella, Chevrolet, 193.
  32. (38) David Starr, Chevrolet, 192.
  33. (35) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 191.
  34. (4) Daniel Hemric # (P), Chevrolet, 187.
  35. (37) Stephen Leicht, Chevrolet, Brakes, 102.
  36. (3) Christopher Bell(i), Toyota, Engine, 78.
  37. (34) Timmy Hill, Dodge, Vibration, 54.
  38. (39) John Graham, Dodge, Parked, 31.
  39. (31) Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, Electrical, 19.
  40. (40) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, Clutch, 10.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  136.14 mph.

Time of Race:  02 Hrs, 12 Mins, 13 Secs. Margin of Victory:  15.405 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  3 for 14 laps.

Lead Changes:  5 among 2 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   T. Reddick 1-2; C. Custer # 3-23; T. Reddick 24-26; C. Custer # 27-48; T. Reddick 49-61; C. Custer # 62-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  C. Custer # 3 times for 182 laps; T. Reddick 3 times for 18 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 00,42,23,3,18,60,21,1,14,01

Stage #2 Top Ten: 00,22,42,18,9,1,48,60,7,24

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, November 19 2017
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