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NASCAR Xfinity: William Byron, Team Penske split 2017 titles

William Byron (left) and JR Motorsports co-owner Rick Hendrick celebrate Byron's 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

William Byron (left) and JR Motorsports co-owner Rick Hendrick celebrate Byron’s 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

With a third-place finish in the Ford EcoBoost 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday, series rookie William Byron claimed the 2017 series drivers’ championship. He’s also expected to soon be named series Rookie of the Year.

“I just can’t believe this,” Byron said. “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.”

Byron became the second-youngest driver to claim an Xfinity Series champion, with the youngest being former JR Motorsports driver Chase Elliott in 2014. He also became the only driver other than Elliott to win the championship as a rookie.

Byron won four times in his rookie season. His 2017 stats also include 12 top-fives and 22 top-10 finishes.

Meanwhile, in a rare start, Sam Hornish Jr. finished a distant second to race winner Cole Custer at Homestead to cement the Xfinity Series owners’ championship for the No. 22 Team Penske Ford team.

“(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,” Hornish said. “As a race car driver, you always want a little more. You want to win the race. Just really happy.”

The No. 22 team had five different drivers behind the wheel in 2017 — Hornish, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Austin Cindric. Together, they posted stats that included four wins, 23 top-fives and 28 top-10s in 33 races.

In the four-driver drivers’ championship race, Daniel Hemric retired early because of an electrical issue, leaving JR Motorsprots teammates Byron, Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier to battle amongst themselves for the title. Allgaier fell off the lead lap with 26 laps remaining, despite running 10th at the time. He wound up 12th at the finish.

Byron and Sadler were racing for fourth on the track and top spot among the title contenders late in the race when Byron moved into third and Sadler and Ryan Preece made contact that resulted in a tire issue for Sadler and an eighth-place finish. Preece finished fifth.

After the race, Sadler accused Preece of costing him the championship and said Preece wasn’t racing anybody for anything. Preece, though, was racing in an effort to garner the owners’ championship for Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 team.

“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.”

Aside from the No. 22 and No. 18 teams, Byron’s No. 9 JR Motorsports team and another JGR team, the No. 20, were racing for the owners’ championship. The No. 20, driven by Christopher Bell, who claimed the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers’ championship the night before, fell out of the race because of an engine problem.

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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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