HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway had plenty of storylines when the checkered flag went up in the air.
William Byron won the championship in just his first full-time season, Cole Custer scored his first career victory in the final race of the year with nearly a half-track advantage and Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrated a championship as an owner.
However, two days later, the main storyline from the race is that Elliott Sadler says Ryan Preece “cost” him the championship.
And unfortunately, this is the sport we are a part of today.
On a weekend where three drivers celebrated the top achievements in the sport, social media isn’t buzzing about those drivers. Instead, my Facebook and Twitter feeds were full with comments about the late-race run between Preece and Sadler.
With just under 10 laps to go in the race, Byron passed Sadler, then passed Preece for third spot. Sadler was trying to chase Byron in what was the battle for the championship.
When Sadler went to get around Preece in a race for fourth on-track, the two made contact and Preece went sideways. He collected the No. 18 and kept going, but Sadler cut down a right-front tire and his championship hopes went up in smoke.
Sadler had tried to pass Preece earlier in the run, but failed, and Byron went by him.
After the race, Sadler was quick to blame Preece.
“He cost us a championship and he’s not even racing anybody,” Sadler said. “He was holding me up and the (No.) 9 (Byron) would have never gotten to us if he wasn’t there. If you’re going to race people like that in this sport, you’re never going to make it very far. You have got to have respect. It’s definitely a shame to be that close and to not pull it off.”
I feel for Sadler, don’t get me wrong. His career has been filled with try, try and try again. I feel his frustration. He wanted to win the championship probably more than anyone else out there.
But his frustration shouldn’t be with Preece.
In just his 40 career XFINITY Series start, Preece was once again running top five in a Joe Gibbs Racing car. His history is well-documented, especially his full-time efforts with JD Motorsports in 2016. He left JD at the end of the season, came home and won five times on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour this year.
This year, he finally got his opportunity in one of the sport’s top rides and it paid off. He won his first NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Iowa Speedway and finished second and fourth in the other two races for Gibbs before Homestead.
Saturday, he ended up finishing fifth in his No. 18 Safelite Auto Glass Toyota, marking his fourth top five of the season in four starts. Better yet, Preece was racing for the owner’s title in the series and came home third of the four that were eligible that day. He was battling Byron for second in the owner’s championship at that point.
Although I understand Sadler’s frustration, it was directed at the wrong guy. Preece was doing everything he could to hold off Byron and hold on to second in the owners championship battle.
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