Byron Out-Races Sadler in Waning Laps to Win XFINITY Title at Homestead

by Tucker White On Sat, Nov. 18, 2017

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - NOVEMBER 18: William Byron, driver of the #9 Liberty University Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after placing third and winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2017 in Homestead, Florida. Photo: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Exactly one year ago, William Byron stood in victory lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway, having won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season-finale the week after his title hopes went up in smoke with his engine. Today, a week after he punched his ticket with a victory in the Arizona desert, he dueled it out with JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler in the final laps of the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series season to claim the championship in his name.

Both drivers hit pit road to make their final stop of the Ford EcoBoost 300 on Lap 145, and Sadler exited in front of Byron. Byron caught and passed him going into Turn 1 on Lap 149 to take over the championship lead.

With 38 laps to go, when Sadler got loose in Turn 3 and sent Byron towards the wall. Whether he made contact with it can’t be determined. Eventually, Sadler passed him going into Turn 1 to take the lead in the championship fight.

Byron caught back up to Sadler with 24 to go, thanks to lap traffic, but couldn’t make the pass, thanks to making contact with the wall in Turn 4 with 22 to go.

“He was really good on the long run,” Byron said of his battle with Sadler. “We weren’t as good on the long run, but we had massive short-run speed.”

He finally caught and passed Sadler in Turn 3 with nine to go, after Sadler failed to complete a pass on Ryan Preece.

In an act of desperation, Sadler turned Preece in Turn 4 with five to go. But the race remained green and Byron drove on to a third-place finish, clinching the 2017 XFINITY Series championship.

“Just thankful for God giving me this opportunity and everyone around me to get me to this point. This is incredible and very thankful for everyone that’s supported me along the way.

“I went to Martinsville (Speedway) when I was seven years old, watching the 48 car (Jimmie Johnson) win the race, and dreamed about running for Mr. (Rick) Hendrick and I got that opportunity with Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. when I was 16 years old, and it just took off from there. Can’t not believe all the people around me that’ve helped made this happen, and thankful for this team. That’s what made it happen.”

After the race, Sadler quickly got out of his car to confront Preece and two XFINITY Series officials had to restrain him from doing anything other than yell.

“Well he cost us a championship, but he’s not even racing anybody,” Sadler said. If he wasn’t slowing us down, the 9 (Byron) never would have gotten to us. If you’re going to race people like that in this sport, you’re not going to make it very far. You gotta have respect. It’s definitely a shame to be that close and not pull it off. I just appreciate my race team. I let them down tonight. I should’ve took care of business when I got to Ryan.

“It was definitely a letdown to lose one like this.”

Preece responded to Elliott’s “he’s not racing anybody” claim with the fact that he was “hired to race this race for the owner championship.”

“We weren’t anywhere near the 22 (Sam Hornish Jr.), but we were racing the 9 (Byron),” Preece said. “It’s pretty much what I said. If it was the 7 (Justin Allgaier) and the 1 (Elliott Sadler) or anyone else that wasn’t in for that owner championship, probably, I definitely would have just laid right over. I’ve been an Elliott Sadler fan growing up, so if I wanted somebody to win that owner championship, or driver championship, it would have been him. Just, I can’t not listen to my owner. I can’t not listen to my, the guy who’s paying you in the end, so it’s just a tough deal. It’s crappy in the end – but I hate controversy.”

As for the “move” he made on Sadler…

“With what move? I was ahead of him,” he said. “If anything – if there was no contact, I was going to let him go that corner. I pulled down in the middle, not running the top because I was letting him go. I mean, I don’t know. The only thing I could’ve done different was realistically gave up second in the owner championship and finished third. You know, hindsight 20/20, we ended up there because of what happened, but I also – as soon as the 9 got me, I was going to let him go. I don’t know much more that I could really do, other than, than lay over on Joe (Gibbs) and Steve (deSouza, EVP of XFINITY and Development for Joe Gibbs Racing). If they came over the radio and said ‘hey, give up second in the owner championship and let these guys race,’ I would’ve done it. I’m just – team orders. I’m not afraid to lay over if it means – but just doing what I’m told.”

And as for what Preece could’ve done different…

“To be honest with you, if there’s a person you don’t want to cost a championship to it’s Elliott Sadler,” he added. “You know, I’m just trying to do team orders here. I was racing for an owner championship. Yeah, we weren’t racing for the win right there, but we were still racing the 9. I got to thank Joe Gibbs for giving me this opportunity, Safelite Auto Glass, Toyota, everybody involved there. It felt – just, you know it’s not where I want to be right there, but obviously I hate it, but can’t take it back.”

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