Chase Elliott after another runner-up: ‘I’ll get it right some day’

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AVONDALE, Arizona — It has become an all-too-familiar scene: Chase Elliott finishing second while another driver celebrates a Cup win that seemed as if it would be Elliott’s.

For the seventh time in his career — tying a Cup a record for most career runner-ups without a win — Elliott was left to explain what kept him from victory.

This, unlike the others, likely was more painful because a win Sunday at Phoenix Raceway would have put him into the championship round and given him a chance to win the title. A victory was his only way to compete for the crown next weekend in Miami.

Instead, he’ll have to be satisfied with another strong run, a measured but firm response to Denny Hamlin on the track, and the knowledge that he’ll have another chance to get that first victory.

None of that mattered to Elliott when the checkered flag flew first for Matt Kenseth.

“That’s all I had buddy,’’ Elliott said on the radio to crew chief Alan Gustafson. “Sorry, I was trying freaking everything I knew to try. I’ll get it right some day.”

Elliott took the lead from Matt Kenseth on Lap 284 and held it for the next 19 laps before Kenseth got back by with 10 laps to go. Elliott couldn’t mount a challenge.

Instead, his only trip to Victory Lane on this day was to congratulate Kenseth.

“A lot of close calls,’’ Elliott said of his season. “I wish more than anything we were fighting for a championship next week.’’

Elliott said he just couldn’t keep Kenseth behind him.

“Our car was really, really fast on those short runs after the rubber got picked up, and we had struggled to be super tight on the long haul and kept taking off really good and was able to kind of work our way forward,’’ Elliott said. “I gave everything I had to try to get a big enough gap so that I could try to keep Matt back there, and tried with everything I had, and it wasn’t enough.’’

Elliott sent the crowd to its feet in his duel with Hamlin for third with about 50 laps left in the race. Elliott nudged Hamlin a couple of times on the rear bumper and dived under Hamlin. As they raced side-by-side, Elliott moved up and Hamlin was pinched against the wall. Hamlin later crashed from the contact, which led to a cut tire.

“A wise man once told me that he’ll race guys the way they raced him with a smile on his face,’’ Elliott said about how he raced Hamlin. “That’s what I did today. I raced him the way he raced me. That’s the way I saw it. That’s about all I have to say.’’

Said Hamlin of the contact: “I got into him (at Martinsville). He chose to retaliate. I’m in the garage. That’s the way it is.’’

With that past and no chance at a championship, how does Elliott move forward?

“You just keep coming back,’’ he said, standing on pit road as Kenseth drove to victory lane. “You recognize there’s always going got be another race and there’s always going to be another opportunity. That’s all you have to recognize, there’s going to be another one next week, another season next year and recognize that the past is the past and learn from it and try to move on down the road.’’

Watch: Championship 4 drivers share thoughts on Miami outcome

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After 200 laps Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, William Byron claimed the Xfinity Series championship in his rookie year by finishing third in the Ford EcoBoost 300.

He finished ahead of his JR Motorsports teammates, Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier, and Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric.

Watch the above video for Byron’s first interview as a NASCAR champion.

Below are interviews with the remaining Championship 4 drivers.

Elliott Sadler

Sadler placed eighth in the race after contact with Ryan Preece with less than 10 laps to go cut a tire on his No. 1 Chevrolet. It Sadler’s fourth runner-up result in the points in his Xfinity career.

Justin Allgaier

Allgaier finished 12th in the race after struggling for most 300-mile event. He was competing without his primary crew chief, who had been suspended for the race. Chad Knaus, the seven-time champion crew chief in the Cup Series with Jimmie Johnson, helped out on the pit box for the No. 7 Chevrolet.

Daniel Hemric

Hemric finished last among the Championship 4 drivers in 34th after his No. 21 Chevrolet experienced battery problems early in Stage 2. Hemric spent 12 laps on pit road before returning to the race.

JR Motorsports sweeps top three in final Xfinity Series standings

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William Byron finished third in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 to give JR Motorsports its second Xfinity title.

The team, co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., swept the top-three spots in the final standings with Elliott Sadler placing second and Justin Allgaier in third.

Daniel Hemric placed fourth after finishing last among the Championship 4 drivers in the race.

Race-winner Cole Custer ends the season in fifth.

Click here for the points results.

Results, stats for Xfinity season finale at Miami

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Cole Custer led 182 laps to win the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It’s his first Xfinity win and the first series win for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Custer swept all three stages of the race and beat Sam Hornish Jr., William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Ryan Preece.

Byron clinched the Xfinity title with his third-place finish.

Click here for results.

Devastated Elliott Sadler watches another title chance go away

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HOMESTEAD, Florida — Elliott Sadler’s fourth runner-up finish for the Xfinity title in the last seven years was a pain he had not felt before.

“I’d say tonight is the most devastating and down and out I’ve ever felt in my career,’’ Sadler said after finishing second to JR Motorsports teammate William Byron for the championship.

Sadler’s anger was directed at Ryan Preece, who slowed Sadler by challenging him for position and stalling Sadler’s momentum as Sadler tried to hold off Byron for the championship in the final 10 laps.

“We were in position to win this championship,’’ Sadler said. “We were there. He raced me hard and held me down and (Byron) got a run on us and he let (Byron) go. Very frustrating.’’

Byron took advantage by diving under Sadler and passing him. Sadler tried to get by Preece but made contact that caused his right front tire to go down. Sadler finished eighth, losing the championship to Byron, who placed third.

“To be that close and not win a championship is frustrating,’’ said the 42-year-old Sadler, who has not won a title in any of NASCAR’s top three national series. “I don’t have many years left, and I wanted to try to fulfill a childhood dream. I didn’t know it was going to come down to a guy that’s not even racing for anything to hold us down like that. No respect at all.’’

Preece said he was racing for something. He was in the No. 18 for Joe Gibbs Racing to compete for the car owner’s title.

“I’m just doing what I’m doing for Joe ,’’ Preece said. “They told me to race for the owners championship.’’

Sadler didn’t buy it when told what Preece said..

“He wasn’t because (Sam Hornish Jr.) was half a lap ahead of him,’’ Sadler said, referring to the Team Penske car that won the car owners title. “He wasn’t racing anybody.’’

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