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William Byron Leads JR Motorsports at Phoenix

JRM Puts Three Drivers in Final Four at Homestead
Saturday, November 11, 2017

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William Byron celebrates his fourth win of the season.
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

With a pickup pit crew, at the track that cost him a shot at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title last year, William Byron won Saturday's Ticket Galaxy 200 to advance to the Championship 4 race in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. 

Behind him, JR Motorsports teammates Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler also qualified for the title race with finishes of 10th and 18th respectively. The JRM trio will join Daniel Hemric in an all-Chevrolet finale, after Hemric ran fifth and held off a valiant bid from Cole Custer after a restart with 13 laps left. 

Byron took the lead off pit road after taking right-side tires only during a stop under caution on Lap 183 of 200. As Hemric, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Custer battled behind him, Byron pulled away to beat Blaney to the finish line by .960 seconds. 

"The second-to-last run of the race it took off on the long run," said Byron, who was knocked out of the Truck Series Playoff last year when his engine blew at Phoenix. "I got up to third, and we got the two tires on it, and we were able to stay up there. 

"I felt like clean air was pretty important. The 20 (Jones), the 22 (Blaney) and us were really similar. Whoever was in third would lose distance to the front two after probably 20 or 30 laps. We just had to adjust on it and make sure we got it right for the last pit stop." 

Cole Custer missed out on a shot at the title by just four points
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Jones ran fourth, followed by Bell and Hemric, who passed Custer on the final lap to claim the final spot in the Championship 4 by four points. Blake Koch also got past Custer on the way to the stripe to grab sixth place, and Custer rolled home seventh. 

The JRM teams found out Saturday morning that their pit crews wouldn't make it to Phoenix in time for the race because their plane had been diverted to Little Rock, Ark., with a mechanical problem. That led to a scramble for crew members pieced together from Hendrick Motorsports development crews. 

In Byron's case, the put-together crew proved up to the task. They got his No. 9 Chevrolet off pit road first after the final pit stop, though crew chief Dave Elenz said the two-tire call was dictated by the team's inability to jack the left side of car, a problem that had recurred throughout the race. 

"The guys on the pit crew did an awesome job, to step in cold-turkey like that, not knowing that you're going to do it this morning," Byron said. "And then showing up and pitting the car in the Playoffs—that's pretty insane." 

If Byron was relatively unconcerned with a makeshift crew, team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. was more than mildly surprised. 

"I freaked out when I heard it," Earnhardt said. "I was real surprised by that news, but I was assured that we had people here who could get in there and do the job, and to be honest with you, they did. Give those guys a lot of credit… 

"I'm equally glad that our guys who had to land in Arkansas are safe, and we'll see them next weekend." 

Justin Allgaier (7) was one of three JR Motorsports driver to make the Final Four
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The major casualty of the race was Brennan Poole, who came to Phoenix fourth in the standings with a good chance to make the Championship 4. But Poole wrecked on Lap 22 while trying to drive to the inside of the lapped car of Caesar Bacarella, who was making his first XFINITY start. 

"I saw (Bacarella) go in (to Turn 1), and we were going to kind of go to the top to go around him, and he slid up so I tried to go to the bottom," Poole said. "Bad luck, bad circumstances.  

"I guess I could have been a little more cautious there, but just trying to get up there to get some stage points and keep moving forward." 

None of the four drivers competing for the title next Saturday drives a car eligible for the owners' championship. The four cars running for the latter title are the No. 22 Ford of Team Penske, the Nos. 18 and 20 Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing and No. 42 Chevrolet of Chip Ganassi Racing. 

All four cars have been driven by multiple drivers this season. 

After the race, the no. 7 Chevrolet of Allgaier was found to have an unattached brake cooling hose in post-race inspection, resulting in an L1 penalty. The infraction did not affect the composition of the Championship 4, but Allgaier will lose the services of crew chief Jason Burdett for the season finale.

RACE RESULTS

Pos.#DriverMakeStartLapsLedStatusPointsPlayoff Points
19William ByronChevy220017Running500
222Ryan BlaneyFord6200147Running00
320Erik JonesToyota120036Running00
418Christopher BellToyota82000Running00
521Daniel HemricChevy72000Running470
611Blake KochChevy92000Running340
700Cole CusterFord32000Running380
842Alex BowmanChevy52000Running00
92Austin DillonChevy162000Running00
107Justin AllgaierChevy102000Running400
1119Matt TifftToyota42000Running260
1298Casey MearsFord182000Running250
133Ty DillonChevy212000Running00
1416Ryan ReedFord202000Running230
1533Brandon JonesChevy152000Running220
165Michael AnnettChevy122000Running210
1723Spencer GallagherChevy192000Running200
181Elliott SadlerChevy132000Running190
194Ross ChastainChevy222000Running180
2014JJ YeleyToyota232000Running170
2139Ryan SiegChevy262000Running160
2224Corey LajoieToyota171990Running00
2351Jeremy ClementsChevy241990Running140
2407Ray Black Jr.Chevy251990Running130
250Garrett SmithleyChevy291970Running120
2690Mario GosselinChevy311970Running110
2701Harrison RhodesChevy321950Running100
2840Timmy HillChevy361940Running90
2999David StarrChevy301900Running80
308Caesar BacarellaChevy371900Running70
3178John GrahamChevy381880Running60
3262Brendan GaughanChevy111790Accident50
3352Joey GaseChevy281690Running40
3489Morgan ShepherdChevy33470Brakes30
3515Joe NemechekChevy27440Brakes00
3613Carl LongToyota40370Electrical10
3738Jeff GreenChevy34300Brakes10
3848Brennan PooleChevy14240Accident10
3974Mike HarmonDodge39190Engine10
4093Gray GauldingChevy3560Electrical00




 

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