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NASCAR Xfinity: Cole Custer wins after dominant performance at Homestead

Cole Custer celebrates in victory lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway after winning the Ford EcoBoost 300 on Nov. 18, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Cole Custer celebrates in victory lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway after winning the Ford EcoBoost 300 on Nov. 18, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Cole Custer claimed his first-career NASCAR Xfinity Series win Saturday in the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the 2017 series season-finale.

“I want to thank everybody at Haas Automation, Code 3 Associates and Roush Yates Engines; the engines have been unbelievable all year. And Xfinity and everybody at NASCAR and all of our fans, it’s just been unbelievable.”

Meanwhile, William Byron and Team Penske claimed Xfinity Series championships, with Byron claiming the drivers’ title by finishing the race in the third position, one position behind Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish’s runner-up finish sealed the owners’ championship for Team Penske’s No. 22 team.

“The Ford Mustang came to life after we were able to make some changes on it on the first stop,” Hornish said. “I basically didn’t use any brakes on the last 155 laps. It was great that we didn’t have a bunch of restarts. I felt that if we did we might have had to makes some adjustment to run with Cole. Congratulations on Cole in winning his first race and William for winning the championship. (Team Penske) brought me down here to take care of the car and make sure we got our goal accomplished, and I felt that we did a good job doing that. As a race car driver, you always want a little more. You want to win the race. Just really happy. Looking forward in getting home tomorrow to see my wife and kids. I just want to thank everyone at Penske for putting me in this car. Thanks to Roger, Tim Cindric and the guys for giving me this opportunity.”

Custer dominated the race, winning both of the 45-lap stages in the first half of the race and leading all but 18 of the 200 laps that made up the race on his way to a winning margin of 15.405 seconds over Hornish. The other 18 laps were led by Tyler Reddick, the race’s fourth-place finisher.

“We knew we were gonna 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 (the Championship Four), we wanted to win.”

Reddick and Custer started on the front row with Reddick on the pole. Custer took his first lead on lap three. The two drivers, then, traded the lead back-and-forth in the laps that followed the first restart of the race that resulted from a J.J. Yeley spin on lap 19.

The Yeley caution was the only caution of the race for an on-track incident, with the only other two cautions being the yellow flags that separated the race into its three stages.

Reddick retook the lead by getting off pit road first during the caution between the first two stages, but Custer retook the lead for good on lap 62.

Late in the race, JR Motorsports teammates Elliott Sadler and Byron raced for the championship and fourth position on the race track behind Custer, Hornish and Ryan Preece. Byron was able to take the position and then move by Preece into third.

“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’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.”

Then, Preece and Sadler made contact that resulted in Preece sliding to fifth and Sadler back to eighth by the checkered flag.

Sadler and Preece exchanged words after the race, with Sadler blaming Preece for costing him the championship.

“He cost us a championship, and he’s not even racing anybody,” Sadler said. “If you’re going to race people like that in this sport, you’re not going to make it very far.

Preece, a part-time driver in the Xfinity Series, was racing for an owners’ championship for Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 team.

Two other drivers’ championship contenders, Justin Allgaier and Daniel Hemric struggled. Hemric fell out of the race early because of an electrical issue after spending significant time on pit road for batter changes.

Allgaier fell off the lead lap with 26 laps remaining, despite running 10th at the time. He wound up 12th at the finish.

Other top-10 finishers were Brennan Poole in sixth, Matt Tifft in seventh, Michael Annett in ninth and Ty Majeski finished 10th.

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Posted by on November 19, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR,NASCAR Xfinity. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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