It eluded him for years, but he has finally done it and in the best way possible: Daniel Hemric is a NASCAR race winner, and he won an Xfinity Series championship with it.
In a dramatic overtime finish, Hemric chased down reigning champion Austin Cindric before beating him to the line by just .030 of a second.
Cindric won the pole ahead of John Hunter Nemechek, who was still reeling from losing the Truck Series championship race on Friday despite his dominant campaign there. Hemric started fourth, Noah Gragson seventh, and A.J. Allmendinger twelfth. Spencer Boyd, Landon Cassill, Ryan Ellis, Joey Gase, Timmy Hill, and Stephen Leicht failed to qualify.
Nemechek led much of the opening stage before Cindric took the lead on lap 21 and drove off to the stage win. Hemric finished second ahead of Nemechek, Justin Allgaier, Gragson, Brandon Jones, Allmendinger, Michael Annett, Riley Herbst, and Justin Haley.
Hemric won the race off pit road to lead the field to begin Stage #2. Jeffrey Earnhardt spun and wrecked on lap 60 for the first race-related caution of the night. Nemechek became the new leader shortly after the restart before Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Hemric reclaimed the spot on lap 87 and led to the win. Cindric got by Nemechek for second. Allgaier, Gragson, Haley, Burton, Annett, and Herbst rounded out the top ten.
The final segment of the year began with Hemric continuing to lead, but racing only lasted a single lap before Joe Graf Jr. crashed into the wall after contact with Sage Karam. Karam would also collide with Matt Mills and send him into the wall for another yellow on lap 106.
On lap 115, Cindric made his move for the lead. Nine laps later, Stefan Parsons was the race’s next victim when his car caught fire. A restart on lap 134 quickly ended when Jade Buford spun, though Gragson took advantage of the brief period under green to fly up from thirteenth to seventh. On the other hand, Allgaier was penalised for dropping below the yellow and and onto the apron before crossing the start/finish line.
Cindric continued to lead before Allmendinger, who was running last among the final four, spun on his own on lap 182. He had been reporting a vibration, the result of a loose right-rear wheel, prior to the spin and eventual caution.
The next green flag came with thirteen laps remaining as Cindric and Hemric comprised the front row. Gragson made slight contact with Hemric while running behind him and Cindric, while Allmendinger’s team-mate Jeb Burton went around after being tapped by Sheldon Creed in turn four for another yellow.
Eight-to-go marked the penultimate restart. Cindric cleared Hemric after a lap before Gragson slammed into the turn one wall, but the race stayed green. Conversely, Buford and Josh Williams‘ accident produced a caution and overtime.
As with previous green flags, a Cindric/Hemric outside/inside front row initiated overtime. The two ran side-by-side as they entered turn one and remained as such on the backstretch. Cindric cleared Hemric to take the white flag, but Hemric remained on the inside. Hemric committed behind Cindric on the backstretch before making his final charge coming to the finish.
Hemric last won a race in 2014 in grassroots series competition; across the next six years of racing in NASCAR’s regional and three national series, he failed to win again until Saturday. He joins 1950 now-Cup Series winner Bill Rexford as the only NASCAR national series champions with one career victory.
“I’m blacked out, blacked out,” said Hemric. “Just knew I had to be the first one to the line. I thought I let [Cindric] get too much of a run off of four. Drove into one, 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 motorsports. What an honour. Unbelievable. I’d do it all over again. I’ll take all the heartbreaks again to live this right here.”
He will have a chance to defend his championship with a new team as he moves to Kaulig to become Allmendinger’s team-mate in 2022. If he repeats, he will be the first driver to win back-to-back Xfinity titles for different teams since Tyler Reddick in 2018 (JR Motorsports) and 2019 (Richard Childress Racing).
Gragson finished twelfth to rank third in the standings; he finished one spot behind JRM ally Michael Annett, who retired from full-time competition after the race. Allmendinger, the regular season champion, placed fourteenth.
|1||4||18||Daniel Hemric||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||204||Running|
|2||1||22||Austin Cindric||Team Penske||Ford||204||Running|
|3||36||20||Harrison Burton||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||204||Running|
|4||5||98||Riley Herbst||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||204||Running|
|5||8||11||Justin Haley||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|6||2||54||John Hunter Nemechek*||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||204||Running|
|7||6||19||Brandon Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||204||Running|
|8||20||02||Brett Moffitt||Our Motorsports||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|9||3||7||Justin Allgaier||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|10||10||78||Sheldon Creed*||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|11||13||1||Michael Annett||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|12||7||9||Noah Gragson||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|13||11||8||Sam Mayer †||JR Motorsports||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|14||12||16||A.J. Allmendinger||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|15||32||26||Dylan Lupton||Sam Hunt Racing||Toyota||204||Running|
|16||21||23||Blaine Perkins||Our Motorsports||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|17||14||38||Ryan Sieg||RSS Racing||Ford||204||Running|
|18||22||51||Jeremy Clements||Jeremy Clements Racing||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|19||17||2||Myatt Snider||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|20||19||68||Brandon Brown||Brandonbilt Motorsports||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|21||27||66||David Starr||MBM Motorsports||Toyota||204||Running|
|22||29||07||J.J. Yeley||SS-Green Light Racing||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|23||9||10||Jeb Burton||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|24||23||44||Tommy Joe Martins||Martins Motorsports||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|25||33||31||Sage Karam||Jordan Anderson Racing||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|26||24||47||Kyle Weatherman||Mike Harmon Racing||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|27||18||39||Kyle Sieg||RSS Racing||Ford||204||Running|
|28||30||6||Ryan Vargas †||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|29||35||5||Matt Mills||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||204||Running|
|30||26||36||Alex Labbé||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||202||Running|
|31||25||15||Bayley Currey*||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||200||Running|
|32||16||92||Josh Williams||DGM Racing||Chevrolet||194||Accident|
|33||15||48||Jade Buford †||Big Machine Racing||Chevrolet||193||Accident|
|34||28||99||Stefan Parsons||B.J. McLeod Motorsports||Chevrolet||123||Engine|
|35||34||17||Joe Graf Jr.||SS-Green Light Racing||Chevrolet||97||Accident|
|36||31||0||Jeffrey Earnhardt||JD Motorsports||Chevrolet||57||Accident|
Underline – Championship Round driver
† – Competed for Rookie of the Year (won by Ty Gibbs)
* – Ineligible for Xfinity points