Daniel Hemric swaps paint with Austin Cindric on his way to winning the Xfinity Championship

By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR author

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Daniel Hemric had done everything in NASCAR but win a NASCAR national league race. Until Saturday night.

Hemric conquered his first victory in an epic way when he made contact with defending Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric in the final lap, surpassing Cindric by 0.03 seconds for victory at Phoenix Raceway and the Series Championship.

The race was Hemric’s 120th in a row, and he had 10 second places and had led 1,183 laps in races up to the championship race. Hemric also had 38 Cup starts and 50 truck starts without a win.

“That’s what it’s about winning at the second highest level in all motorsport disciplines,” Hemric said. “What an honor. Unbelievable. I would do it all over again. I will take all the heartache again to live it right here.”

While Hemric and Cindric won 1-2, the other two championship challengers were not so close: Noah Gragson finished in 12th place and AJ Allmendinger finished 14th.

Hemric exchanges paint for victory

Hemric rubbed Cindric’s bumper, and they knocked on the doors a bit before Hemric managed the pass. When they finished 1-2 and Cindric not in the wall, it was an acceptable way to win the race.

“Until you spin someone out, it’s not dirty racing,” Cindric said.

Cindric, who had won the two previous races in Phoenix, including a year ago to win the Xfinity Series championship, said Hemric was able to take the plunge.

“The catalyst that did not come free of turn 4,” Cindric said. “Obviously he drove it in stupid deep and left me, was still able to stay side by side … That was all he had to be close to.”

Hemric’s thought process was somewhat simple: “I just knew I was going to be the first in line.”

Now off to Kaulig

Hemric had previously announced that he would leave Joe Gibbs Racing after this season and drive for Kaulig Racing next year.

“Something that Daniel can bring is a lot of knowledge from different race cars, how things feel, maybe what’s good or bad about our race cars,” Allmendinger said.

“I’m really looking forward to having him. I think it’s a great job. Now he’s a champion. … We have a champion on the team.”

While Hemric knows what he’s doing, his crew chief, Dave Rogers, said he did not know what he would do at JGR next year.

After saying that, he turned to the team’s COO Coy Gibbs and said, “Wage increase.”

Now off to the Cup

Cindric switches to the Cup Series and replaces Brad Keselowski on Team Penske. The organization has not announced an Xfinity driver for next season, and a team leader declined earlier Saturday to comment on whether the organization would pose with a team in the series next year.

The realization that this could have been the last race in the series at least for a while for a Penske sign-up was not lost on Cindric.

“It has obviously been an extremely successful program, something that has been very proud of the race shop,” Cindric said.

Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsport, including the last 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after staying with ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR newsletter with Bob Pockrass!

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