Hemric advances to final four at Homestead

Russell LaBounty/NKPPhoto

By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

It was one position on the racetrack that made all the difference in either racing for a championship next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway or sitting on the sidelines waiting for next year. Luckily for Daniel Hemric, one position allowed him the opportunity to race for his first NASCAR XFINITY Series championship.

Going into the weekend at Phoenix Raceway, Hemric sat 18 points behind the cutoff line going into the weekend. Hemric knew everything that he needed to do in the race to have that chance to race for a championship.

Hemric was able to start the Ticket Galaxy 200 from the seventh position. He was able to stay within the top-10 for the entire race collecting the valuable stage points. Hemric finished in the fourth position in the first stage and finished third in the second stage. He was able to collect 15 valuable stage points throughout the race.

Going into the final stage, Hemric and his No. 21 team understood that they needed to fire off better on the restarts. Throughout the race, Hemric and his crew did not talk about where he was in the points until about 20 laps to go.

“We never really talked about it much until 20 to go. About five laps before that last caution came out, I was made aware like ‘hey, we are fourth in points. We have to finish in front of the 00. Just take care of it’,” said Hemric.

With the caution coming out with 18 remaining, the No. 21 team went down pit road and took two tires in fuel to restart in the second position. When the race restarted, Hemric fell back around the fifth position. Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00, was able to pass Hemric, but still needed one more car in between them to have the tiebreaker over Hemric.

“We struggled all day taking off on restarts. It took about 12 laps for our car to start coming in. That’s about how many we had to go. Great job by Randall for calling for two tires. Hopefully, the goal was to tighten us up so that we could take off with a little bit more speed and maintain a little bit more track position,” said Hemric.

While Hemric and Custer were trying to battle for position, Christopher Bell was able to creep up and pass both of them with two laps remaining. Hemric was pinned on the inside of Custer in an attempt to pass him. On the final lap, Hemric was able to pass Custer off the final corner to advance into the final four at Homestead.

After the race, Hemric applauded Custer for how he raced in those final laps and throughout the season. Hemric was glad that they both did not wreck on that final lap.

“Hats off to him. We both raced each other as hard as we could, not only today but all year. For both of us to run each other like we did, not completely crash each other,” said Hemric.

Since Dover, Hemric has been without primary crew chief, Danny Stockman Jr., car chief, Clint Almquist, and engineer, Luke Mason for an added ballast found in inspection. Although they have not been on the track, they have been the biggest supporter of the team. Hemric is unsure if Stockman will return to the top of the pit box next weekend at Homestead.

With his rookie season as been full of surprises and triumph, Hemric is proud of the way his guys have been able to handle the season.

“The heart of this group has done an unbelievable job rebounding, sticking together, and really coming through the struggles with our heads held high making the most of every weekend. That’s why as a rookie group, we have been able to accomplish everything we have.”

Hemric will have to race the JR Motorsports contingent of William Byron, Elliott Sadler, and Justin Allgaier for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend.

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