The NASCAR Xfinity Series rolls out of the Phoenix desert and heads down to the sunny, warm beaches of Miami, Florida. Coming into the Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Ford Ecoboost 300, the 2016 season finale race. After Phoenix, four drivers were eliminated, leaving only the Championship 4. Consisting of Erik Jones, Justin Allgaier, Daniel Suarez, and Elliott Sadler, it was very clear that either a Joe Gibbs Racing or a JR Motorsports driver would take the title home. Daniel Suarez started on pole with Elliott Sadler starting to his outside. Jones followed in third and Allgaier in sixth.
Daniel Suarez Wins a Controversial Race at Homestead; Makes History as Champion
Suarez would jump to the early lead. It soon would show that this would be a chase driver show down as at numerous points, all four Chase drivers ran in the top four. But a few non-chasers would show up to dampen the party. Ty and Austin Dillon as well as Kyle Larson had good runs at the front of the field. The red flag was displayed at lap 134 after Ryan Reed blew a tire and in the ensuing smoke cloud Jordan Anderson want able to avoid the slower car of Jeremy Clements. Anderson rear-ended Clements, lifting his Chevy Camaro off the ground and causing Anderson’s car to burst into flames. Both drivers would be unharmed.
Late in the race Ray Black Jr. would spin to set up a late race restart, thus setting up the controversy. Cole Whitt was forced to stay out after his team ran out of tires, everyone else however came into pit. Whitt started on the high line with Jones and Allgaier behind him. Sadler and Suarez stay on the low line. Whitt would spin his tires, causing a stack up halting the process of Jones and Allgaier. Sadler and Suarez broke away and Suarez passes Sadler going into turn one and never looked back. Daniel Suarez of Monterrey, Mexico would go onto to win the race and the championship. Becoming the first Latin-American and first foreign born NASCAR Premier Series Champion.
Jones was obviously livid with Whitt and had this to say to Nascar.com, “It just didn’t make any sense. Staying out there on old tires with the four championship guys right behind. I’d love to hear why he didn’t go in the restart. There’s a lot of questions I’d like to have answered.”
Cole Whitt responded to Nascar.com saying “I thought if I was on the outside I would have the most room for them to go underneath me if anything happened and I couldn’t get going. With him (Jones) hitting me, I couldn’t get going and it was just making me spin the tires worse. Obviously if you could redo it, you would change the way you did it. It’s not like we were out there to screw anybody over.”
Top 5 from the Ford Ecoboost 300:
- #19 Arris Toyota- Daniel Suarez (champion)
- #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevy- Ty Dillon
- #1 One Main Financial Chevy- Elliott Sadler
- #22 Rev Group Ford- Ryan Blaney
- #2 Rheem Chevy- Austin Dillon
Other notable finishers include Erik Jones in ninth and Justin Allgaier in sixth. Ryan Seig in 12th, JJ Yeley in 13th and Cole Whitt in 18th. Matt Tifft had a terrible day coming home in 25th after hitting the wall and Brennan Poole had an even worse day also wrecking and finishing 27th.
Final Championship standings:
- #19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota- Daniel Suarez (champion) 4040
- #1 JR Motorsports Chevy- Elliott Sadler 4038
- #7 JR Motorsports Chevy- Justin Allgaier 4035
- #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota- Erik Jones 4032
This season would see some incredible moments, stories and controversy. The dominance of the Cup drivers was seen and a new rule for 2017 was proposed. Controversy like the finish of the July Daytona race, spectacular accidents like Joey Logano‘s airborne crash at Talladega, and spectacular finishes such as the wild finish of the same Talladega race. This year, we say goodbye to some old faces and say hello to some new ones. Erik Jones and Ty Dillon and say hello to the new faces, William Byron, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer, and Tyler Reddick. This season has been as season to remember, and will continue to wow fans with its incredible racing and passionate drivers.
The 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series season kicks off Saturday February 25th for the Powershares QQQ 300 from the Daytona International Speedway.