William Byron Leads JR Motorsports at Phoenix

William Byron celebrates his fourth win of the season.
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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
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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
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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. # Driver Make Start Laps Led Status Points Playoff Points
1 9 William Byron Chevy 2 200 17 Running 50 0
2 22 Ryan Blaney Ford 6 200 147 Running 0 0
3 20 Erik Jones Toyota 1 200 36 Running 0 0
4 18 Christopher Bell Toyota 8 200 0 Running 0 0
5 21 Daniel Hemric Chevy 7 200 0 Running 47 0
6 11 Blake Koch Chevy 9 200 0 Running 34 0
7 00 Cole Custer Ford 3 200 0 Running 38 0
8 42 Alex Bowman Chevy 5 200 0 Running 0 0
9 2 Austin Dillon Chevy 16 200 0 Running 0 0
10 7 Justin Allgaier Chevy 10 200 0 Running 40 0
11 19 Matt Tifft Toyota 4 200 0 Running 26 0
12 98 Casey Mears Ford 18 200 0 Running 25 0
13 3 Ty Dillon Chevy 21 200 0 Running 0 0
14 16 Ryan Reed Ford 20 200 0 Running 23 0
15 33 Brandon Jones Chevy 15 200 0 Running 22 0
16 5 Michael Annett Chevy 12 200 0 Running 21 0
17 23 Spencer Gallagher Chevy 19 200 0 Running 20 0
18 1 Elliott Sadler Chevy 13 200 0 Running 19 0
19 4 Ross Chastain Chevy 22 200 0 Running 18 0
20 14 JJ Yeley Toyota 23 200 0 Running 17 0
21 39 Ryan Sieg Chevy 26 200 0 Running 16 0
22 24 Corey Lajoie Toyota 17 199 0 Running 0 0
23 51 Jeremy Clements Chevy 24 199 0 Running 14 0
24 07 Ray Black Jr. Chevy 25 199 0 Running 13 0
25 0 Garrett Smithley Chevy 29 197 0 Running 12 0
26 90 Mario Gosselin Chevy 31 197 0 Running 11 0
27 01 Harrison Rhodes Chevy 32 195 0 Running 10 0
28 40 Timmy Hill Chevy 36 194 0 Running 9 0
29 99 David Starr Chevy 30 190 0 Running 8 0
30 8 Caesar Bacarella Chevy 37 190 0 Running 7 0
31 78 John Graham Chevy 38 188 0 Running 6 0
32 62 Brendan Gaughan Chevy 11 179 0 Accident 5 0
33 52 Joey Gase Chevy 28 169 0 Running 4 0
34 89 Morgan Shepherd Chevy 33 47 0 Brakes 3 0
35 15 Joe Nemechek Chevy 27 44 0 Brakes 0 0
36 13 Carl Long Toyota 40 37 0 Electrical 1 0
37 38 Jeff Green Chevy 34 30 0 Brakes 1 0
38 48 Brennan Poole Chevy 14 24 0 Accident 1 0
39 74 Mike Harmon Dodge 39 19 0 Engine 1 0
40 93 Gray Gaulding Chevy 35 6 0 Electrical 0 0

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