Byron Cops Xfinity Series Championship; Custer Dominates Ford EcoBoost 300

Xfinity champion William Byron and team co-owner Rick Hendrick. [Joe Jennings Photo]

Xfinity champion William Byron and team co-owner Rick Hendrick. [Joe Jennings Photo]

By Joe Jennings

Homestead, Fla. – Up and coming drivers – teenagers, no less –dominated the NASCAR Xfinity Series season finale, the Ford EcoBoost 300, at the Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday. The championship went to William Byron, who waged a race-long battle with teammate Elliott Sadler to score the coveted crown.

Byron sewed up the crown in the final laps when Sadler got jammed up with Ryan Preece, losing momentum and five positions to end up eighth, while Byron held on to an impressive third place finish and the coveted championship.

Championship winning JR Motorsports team celebrates.  [Joe Jennings Photo]
Xfinity winners Rick Hendrick for race win and Roger Penske for taking 2017 season owner championship for fourth time.  For the photo op, the two dignitaries swapped hats.  [Joe Jennings Photo]
Race winner Cole Custer on victory podium.  [Joe Jennings Photo]

“I don’t know that I took a breath in those last 20 laps,” said Byron. “Elliott raced me clean and hard. I can’t believe this; this is incredible.”

The new champion became the second youngest champion at 19 years and 11 months behind Chase Elliott, who was a year younger. And he became the 28th different Series champion.

Cole Custer totally dominated the 200-lap race, leading 182 laps, to score his first Series victory. The 19-year old driver drove the Haas Automation Ford fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing, to give the team its first win on the circuit.

“We just had an extremely good car all weekend,” Custer said. “We had a good test here and the second we hit the track, we knew we were going to be really good the whole time. I think it is a perfect way to end the season.”

Added co-owner Tony Stewart, “These guys had an awesome race car, and the pit stops and Cole were awesome, too.”
Sam Hornish Jr. finished second in the REV/Fleetwood Ford, earning the fourth Xfinity championship for Team Penske. Five drivers shared rides in the No.22 Ford during the season.

Byron took third with pole winner Tyler Reddick fourth and Preece fifth.

The second five finishers were Brennan Poole, Matt Tifft, Sadler, Michael Annett and Ty Majeski.
Champion contenders Justin Allgaier and Daniel Hemric finished 12th and 34th, respectively.

On the way to the title William Byron piloted his Chevy Camaro to four wins, 12 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes, Byron becomes the 28th different driver to win an Xfinity Series title, the second-youngest title holder in series history at 19 years, 11 months and 20 days, and the sixth series champion from the state of North Carolina.

Byron becomes the second rookie to earn an Xfinity series title in his first season of competition; and joins the first rookie to accomplish that feat, former JR Motorsports driver, Chase Elliott (2014).

“I don’t know that I took a breath the last 20 laps,” said Byron. “That was incredible. I just have to thank this team. This is awesome. Elliott (Sadler, teammate) raced me clean and we just raced hard for it. I just can’t believe this. I’ve just got to thank God for giving me this platform to perform. I can’t believe this. I’m tired, whew. Thanks to all the fans here this evening, this is an unbelievable crowd, I just can’t believe it.”

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