William Byron led the final 13 laps to win the Ticket Galaxy 200 at Phoenix Raceway and cement a spot in the Xfinity Series championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
On just two fresh tires, Byron fended off Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones to score his fourth win of the year and his first since July at Indianapolis. Blaney was on four fresh tires while Jones was on two.
The top five was Byron, Blaney, Jones, Christopher Bell and Daniel Hemric.
Byron and Hemric, both rookies, will join Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler in the championship race. Byron, Allgaier and Sadler all drive for JR Motorsports.
With Richard Childress Racing’s Hemric in the championship race, all four title contenders will be Chevrolet teams.
Byron scored the win with a patched together pit crew. Twenty-two of JR Motorsports’ 24 regular pit crew members did not take part in the race after a plane they were traveling on to Phoenix made an emergency landing in Arkansas due to an electrical problem.
“We grinded all day, great job by this team,” Byron told NBCSN. “To make that pit call (for two tires) by (crew chief) Dave (Elenz) is awesome. This one got robbed from me last year at Phoenix. Got it back and just can’t thank these guys enough for that. Awesome job.”
Elenz said that the two-tire strategy was necessary as the team had trouble lifting the left side of Byron’s car to change tires.
Last year as a rookie in the Camping World Truck Series, Byron was 10 laps from winning at Phoenix when his engine blew. Byron didn’t finish and failed to advance to the championship race.
Hemric clinched his spot in the playoffs after a battle with playoff driver and fellow rookie Cole Custer that ended with Hemric, who only had two new tires, pulling ahead of Custer and his four fresh tires as they exited Turn 4 to take the checkered flag.
MORE: Justin Allgaier fails post-race inspection, expected to be without crew chief at Homestead
STAGE 1 WINNER: Ryan Blaney
STAGE 2 WINNER: Ryan Blaney
WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Blaney led 147 laps before losing the lead on the final pit stop of the race … Blake Koch finished sixth for his fifth top 10 of the season and his best finish of the year. … Alex Bowman finished eighth in his second and final Xfinity start of the year for Chip Ganassi Racing.
WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Brennan Poole was eliminated from title contention after a crash on Lap 23 when he made contact with the lapped car of Caesar Bacarella in Turn 1. A cut tire sent his No. 48 Chevy into the wall. He finished 38th. … Brendan Gaughan finished 32nd after he crashed with 20 to go. Gaughan also caused a Lap 1 caution when he spun in Turn 3 with Corey LaJoie.
NOTABLE: William Byron is the only Xfinity regular to win in the playoffs … Daniel Hemric advances to the championship race after having his crew chief Danny Stockman Jr, his car chief and an engineer suspended for the past four races for an infraction at Dover. Richard Childress told NBC Sports he will keep interim crew chief Randall Burnett and the other two replacements in their roles in the title race.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “That’s what the playoffs are all about. So intense, man. I’m so proud of all these guys. Awesome pit stops all day. It kept us with a little faith in our souls the rest of the race.” – Daniel Hemric after clinching his spot in the championship race.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity Series ends the season Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)