Daniel Hemric rallies to win first race, Xfinity championship

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Daniel Hemric passed Austin Cindric coming to the checkered flag in overtime to score his first career NASCAR win and claim the Xfinity Series championship.

Hemric had been winless in 207 NASCAR races across Cup, Xfinity and the Camping World Series before Saturday night’s race. Ten times he had finished runner-up in a race in the Xfinity Series.

The race went to overtime after a late caution – one of three cautions in the last 20 laps. Cindric led and started on the outside. Hemric started on the inside of Cindric. Hemric hung close before making his move coming to the checkered flag.

MORE: Race results, driver points 

He bumped Cindric, moving Cindric up the track coming to the white flag. That kept him close to Cindric in the back and got beside Cindric. Hemric hit Cindric and that allowed him to close. Both cars made contact before Hemric’s pulled ahead to cross the finish line first.

“Unbelievable,” Hemric told NBC Sports’ Rutledge Wood. “These guys right here have asked me all year, ‘How bad do you want it?’ We gave away one here in the spring. I felt like we had to give one up last week to get here. We were not going to be denied. … People doubted me. I would do it all over again for a night like this.“

Said Cindric, who was seeking his second consecutive title, about the contact from Hemric: “I’ve certainly had worse. Wasn’t enough to wreck it. Until you spin somebody out, it’s not dirty racing.”

The 30-year-old Hemric becomes the oldest Xfinity Series champion since Kevin Harvick in 2006.

No longer will Hemric have to answer the question of when he’ll win his first race.

“That question is horrible, for the record,” crew chief Dave Rogers said. ” I mean, I dreaded it more than Daniel did. I knew when we walked on the grid we were going to hear, ‘When is your first win? Is tonight the night?’ That probably puts more pressure on you than anything else.

“As a crew chief, that’s the last thing you want someone to put in your driver’s head. Put up the window net, ‘Hey, is tonight the night?’ What you want him focused on is good restarts, wise decisions behind the wheel.

“Now he’s got that. Can’t ask that no more. I think Daniel Hemric is going to be a completely different driver from today forward just because of the mental aspect.”

Hemric is the sixth driver this year to win their first Xfinity race.  The others were Ty Gibbs (Daytona road course), Myatt Snider (Homestead), Josh Berry (Martinsville), Jeb Burton (Talladega) and Brandon Brown (Talladega). There were three first-time winners in 2020.

Harrison Burton finished third. Riley Herbst and Justin Haley completed the top five. Title contender Noah Gragson, who bounced off the wall in the final laps, finished 12th. Title contender AJ Allmendinger finished 16th after a spin late in the race.

The championship marks the second title for Toyota in two nights. Toyota won the Truck title with Ben Rhodes on Friday.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Austin Cindric

STAGE 2 WINNER: Daniel Hemric

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Riley Herbst’s fourth-place finish, his best result in the last seven races. … Sheldon Creed, running his first Xfinity race since 2019, finished 10th.

NOTABLE: Daniel Hemric becomes the third driver to win the Xfinity Series championship for Joe Gibbs Racing, joining Kyle Busch in 2009 and Daniel Suarez in 2016

NEXT: The 2022 season opener will be Feb. 19 at Daytona International Speedway.