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 a 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 back flip 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 a run off 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 motorsports. What an honor…
“How about those race fans? That back flip 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.”
Earlier in the day, Jesse Love won the 2021 ARCA Menards Series West championship with one of the most dramatic passes for 14th place one will ever witness. He did so soon after Ty Gibbs took the checkered flag to win Saturday’s Arizona Lottery 100 at Phoenix Raceway.
Love, the 16-year-old from Menlo Park, California, who entered the 2021 West Series finale with a one-point lead in the championship standings, found himself down one point to Jake Drew as they ran in the closing laps at Phoenix. With Drew running 11th and Love in 15th, based on points, the former was on his way to a title.
Ironically, it was Drew’s Sunrise Ford Racing teammate Trevor Huddleston who gave up the position Love needed to win his second consecutive West Series championship.
Drew appeared to drop off the pace shortly after taking the white flag. Love immediately took advantage and made the pass for 14th. The two ended up tied in championship points, but Love took the title via a tiebreaker (two West Series wins this season to zero for Drew).
NASCAR Championship Weekend concludes Sunday with a sold-out NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway. Fans without tickets can watch the race live on NBC.