Here's how it all went down in the Xfinity Series season finale!
Tyler Reddick led the field to the start-finish line to get the race underway. 2 laps in, Cole Custer would take over the lead. While that was going on, Ryan Reed in the #16 was forced to serve a pass-through penalty due to switching lanes before the start-finish line at the start of the race. That was due in large part to Scott Lagasse Jr. in the #3 car spinning his tires, forcing Reed to try to avoid him.
On lap 20 JJ Yeley in the #14 TriStar Motorsports Toyota got loose in turn two and blew a tire, making his car go sideways bringing out the first caution of the day. After the field got back to green flag racing on lap 24, it was Tyler Reddick leading the field to the green flag. Cole Custer would overtake the lead once again on lap 28 as he and Reddick continued to battle for the lead.
Custer would win the battle and Stage 1. The four playoff contenders finished stage 1 outside the top 5. Daniel Hemric in the #21 Poppy Bank Chevy was the highest of the four in 7th place. Right behind him was Elliott Sadler in the #1 OneMain Financial Chevy in 8th. William Byron was the 3rd Playoff driver coming in 12th, and Justin Allgaier was in the Playoff driver furthest down the line in 19th.
When Stage 2 got underway, it was once again Tyler Reddick out in the front of the pack. Playoff contenders Byron and Hemric both were able to quickly make their way into the top 5 after the start of the stage. However, shortly thereafter, disaster struck for Hemric with a mechanical failure of his battery that sent him to the pits on lap 60. As his crew worked feverishly to fix his car, he continued to lose precious laps.
While Hemric was sitting in the pits, Cole Custer had regained the lead from Reddick. He would take that lead all the way to a stage 2 victory. Meanwhile, William Byron had moved up to 4th, with Sadler following suit in 6th. Justin Allgaier was in 9th, while Daniel Hemric was able to get back out onto the track after his battery issue; unfortunately he was 12 laps down back in 35th.
On pit road during the yellow flag stops, Elliott Sadler would gain the advantage on Byron, moving up to 4th while Byron stayed in 5th. Allgaier had a very long pit stop. However, it only cost him two spots as he dropped to 11th.
By lap 110 Byron, Allgaier, and Sadler were all battling in the 3rd, 4th and 5th position as the race for the title heated up. Allgaier would eventually fall a lap down after green flag pit stops cycled through. This left it down to JR Motorsports teammates Elliott Sadler and William Byron to battle it out for the Championship.
In the final 20 laps, as the race drew closer to an end, it was evident that no one was going to catch Custer. The race that everyone was watching was the battle between Byron and Sadler. The two jockeyed for position with Sadler holding the advantage going into turn 3 and down the front stretch, while Byron held the lead in turn 1 and 2, through the backstretch.
As the final ten laps ticked away, Byron took the lead through lapped traffic and other competitors as he was able to get by Ryan Preece in the #18 Safelite AutoGlass Toyota. This was just minutes after Sadler attempted to make the pass on Preece himself, and was unsuccessful. Sadler would attempt again to make the pass in the final laps as he tried as hard as he could to stay with Byron but Preece did not let up, and Sadler was unable to make the pass, ending up getting into the right rear quarter panel of Preece, and the two got sideways momentarily.
They were both able to save their cars from crashing. However, Byron had pulled away, and there were less than five laps to go. Byron would cruise to the finish capturing the 2017 Xfinity Series Championship, while Sadler eyed the pits where he got out of his car focused on confronting Preece.
The confrontation was nothing but a simple exchange of words as NASCAR Officials held Sadler back from Preece, with Sadler convicted that Preece cost him a chance at a NASCAR Xfinity Championship.
“Just very frustrating end to the night, to be that close to a NASCAR championship and to be raced by somebody that was not racing for anything at all was – put us in a pretty bad position there at the end and let William catch us. Just very devastating to me right now to have one taken away from you like that.”
Elliott then continued to answer in frustration when asked if he felt any better knowing that Preece was racing for an owner championship, “He (Preece) wasn’t because the 22 was a have lap ahead of him, so he wasn’t racing anybody.”
In any event, what’s done is done, and Byron is the 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion, becoming the 6th driver from the state of North Carolina to win the Title.
The Owner’s championship was won by Rodger Penske for his #22 Team Penske Ford that was driven by five different drivers in the 2017 season. Five times the car was driven by Sam Hornish Jr. who finished in 2nd place Saturday at Homestead to clinch the title for Penske. After the race, Penske was quick to give credit to his collective team.
“When you think about Austin, you think about Blaney, Brad and Joey all driving this car during the season and the results really – we have got to take our hat off to Greg Erwin and the guys around the 22 team because they just did a terrific job.”