Cole Custer Earns First XFINITY Win at Miami; William Byron Earns Championship
Before the Ford EcoBoost 300, Cole Custer had never finished better than fourth in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
But the Stewart-Haas Racing rookie drove like a veteran in Saturday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, dominating to earn his first XFNITY Series win in a race that also crowned third-place William Byron the 2017 XFINITY Series champion.
Custer led a race-high 182 laps in his No. 00 Ford en route to the checkered flag.
Sam Hornish Jr., piloting the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske, finished third, while Tyler Reddick (No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) and Ryan Preece (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
The championship was ultimately decided by a fierce battle between JR Motorsports teammates Byron and Elliott Sadler in the waning laps. Sadler’s No. 1 Chevrolet emerged off pit road with the lead over Byron’s No. 9 following a final green-flag pit stop, but Byron snatched the lead from his teammate at Lap 149. After hard racing that resulted in slight contact, Sadler passed his teammate with less than 40 laps to go for the championship lead.
The title-winning pass came with nine laps to go when Byron passed Sadler for third place when Sadler was held up by Preece. Sadler made contact with Preece several laps later, causing his tire to go down, which slowed his run and diminished his chances at the title. He finished eighth and second in the standings, having tense words with Preece after the race.
Justin Allgaier, who had No. 48 Monster Energy Series crew chief Chad Knaus atop his pit box throughout the race, struggled with the handling of his No. 7 Chevrolet. He finished 12th in the race and third in the final standings.
Hemric’s championship chances looked strong, as he was the highest running driver among the Championship 4 during the first part of the race. But those hopes fizzled when Hemric came down pit road at Lap 62 for an electric issue. After a lengthy stop, he returned to the race 12 laps down, finishing fourth among the Championship 4 with a 34th-place finish.
Fresh after being crowned the Camping World Truck Series champion, Christopher Bell exited the race at Lap 79 after his No. 20 Toyota blew an engine. He will run full time in the XFINITY Series next season for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Custer swept all three stages, leading 72 of the first 90 laps to win Stages 1 and 2.
The 2017 season finale for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series takes place Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3 p.m., NBC/NBC Sports App), with Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski battling for the trophy.