William Byron wins at Phoenix; Championship 4 lineup set for Homestead
By John Haverlin
November 11, 2017
AVONDALE, Ariz.—The NASCAR XFINITY Series concluded its Round of 8 at Phoenix Raceway on Saturday afternoon with William Byron winning the Ticket Galaxy 200.
The Championship 4 lineup is now set for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend with Byron, Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier and Daniel Hemric as the championship-eligible drivers.
All but Hemric, who drives for Richard Childress Racing, are JR Motorsports wheelmen.
Ryan Blaney won the first stage at the desert oval but it didn’t come effortlessly. He battled pole sitter Erik Jones throughout the middle of the segment and Blaney was finally able to overtake Jones’ No. 20 Toyota on the inside of Turn 2 before the green and white checkered flag waved on Lap 60.
Alex Bowman, driving the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet finished second in the stage and Jones finished third. Hemric, who entered the race from outside of the cutoff, finished fourth.
Brennan Poole, who was fourth in the standings and in the final Championship 4 spot at the start of the day, hit the outside wall in Turn 2 and totaled his No. 48 on Lap 23. He finished 38th and did not advance as a title contender.
Blaney won the second segment with Jones also finishing runner-up again. Hemric finished third, Allgaier fourth, Byron sixth, and Cole Custer seventh.
The stage was completed entirely under green conditions. However on lap 110, Bowman pitted after reporting that he had a loose wheel.
Blaney and Jones were the top two cars for a majority of the race, but the more compelling battle was between Hemric and Custer to see which rookie would make it as a championship driver in Florida.
Throughout the stage, they flirted with the top five and were never more than half a dozen points apart.
Gaughan brought out the yellow flag on lap 180 after making contact with the Turn 4 wall and came to a halt with his No. 62 on the frontstretch.
Byron and Hemric restarted from the front row on lap 183 after taking two tires on pit road and it was the right call for the JRM rookie. He went on to win his fourth race of 2017 and Hemric finished fifth, ensuring his final four berth at Homestead.
Custer finished four points behind Hemric and seventh in the race.
Byron’s victory could be considered a redemption win. In the November 2016 Truck Series race, he led with nine to go until suffering a blown engine and failing to advance to the Championship 4.
Although Byron clinched a Homestead berth on Saturday before the race’s end, his performance demonstrated that he may be the favorite for the title.
Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts