By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Daniel Hemric picked the perfect time to win his first NASCAR national series race—and a title came with it.
Executing an aggressive bump-and-run in Saturday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship Race, Hemric passed Austin Cindric in the final two corners at Phoenix Raceway.
Approaching the finish line, the cars collided side-to-side, with Hemric crossing the stripe .030 seconds ahead of Cindric—roughly five feet—denying the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford a second straight championship.
The victory came in Hemric’s 208th NASCAR national series start, silencing critics who kept asking, “Will Hemric ever win a race?”
The answer came from crew chief Dave Rogers moments after the winning driver crossed the stripe and clinched the title.
“How about that, champion?” Rogers said. “You’ll never have to hear that stupid question again.”
“Never again!” Hemric shouted in reply.
Hemric, who is leaving the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in favor of a ride with Kaulig Racing next year, was unapologetic about moving Cindric’s Ford up the track to win the race at the end of two-lap overtime that extended the event from 200 to 204 laps.
“I’m blacked out, blacked out,” Hemric said at the start/finish line after turning a backflip off the roof of his car. “Just knew I had to be the first one to the line. I thought I let him get too much of runoff of (Turn) 4 (on the first lap of overtime).
“Drove into (Turn) 1, knew I was close, not to completely use them up, but we work our asses off for an opportunity like this—excuse my language. This is what it’s all about, winning at the second-highest level in all of the motorsports. What an honor…
“How about those race fans? That backflip good enough for you? I’ve been waiting a long damn time to do that.”
Cindric took the loss with consummate grace.
“Until you spin somebody out, it’s not dirty racing,” said Cindric, who entered the championship event with five wins to his credit this season. “If everyone in the stands enjoyed it, it’s good racing.
“I’m appreciative of the opportunity to race on such a big stage, the race for Roger Penske, represent Ford Performance, all of our sponsors that helped us this season. It would have been awesome to finish this out. I felt like we had a dominant race car, felt like we did everything right. Come up a little short.”
As a consolation prize, Cindric secured the Xfinity Series Owners Championship for Roger Penske with his runner-up result.
The other two Championship 4 drivers—Noah Gragson and AJ Allmendinger—were in contention at the end. Gragson slammed the wall shortly after a restart on Lap 193 and fell to 12th at the finish.
Allmendinger suffered a loose wheel late in the race and spun in Turn 2 on Lap 181, causing the eighth of 10 cautions. Cindric, who led a race-high 113 laps, had a commanding lead at the time, but the yellow bunched the field and set up the late-race shootout.
Harrison Burton ran third on Saturday, followed by Riley Herbst and Justin Haley. John Hunter Nemechek, Brandon Jones, Brett Moffitt, Justin Allgaier, and Sheldon Creed completed the top 10.
Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography