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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade / NKP)

Pace Laps: First-Timers Shine in Homestead Finale In NASCAR’s Top-3 Divisions

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Proper End to 2017 Championship – The favorites entering the playoffs were the ones battling nose-to-nose for the championship in the final laps Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The way it should have.

From the beginning of the season, Kyle Busch (2015 champion) and Martin Truex Jr. (among the quickest cars in the sport since 2015) were a commodity atop the practice charts. That speed led to qualifying with 11 poles, stage racing with 33 stage wins, which eventually led to race wins. Here, Truex and Busch won 13 times, including seven in the playoffs, toward the final lap of Homestead.

Martin Truex Jr. Takes Cup Title with 8th Win at Homestead

In a heads-up shootout, Truex had the better hand over Busch, maintaining his half-second lead to score the win and championship in Homestead. Busch, who scored the second-most points in 2017 behind Truex, suitably finished second in the title behind the No. 78.

Not even the wildness of the playoffs could upset this dynamic duo in 2017. – Zach Catanzareti

XFINITY Series: Cole Custer Earns Perfect Rating, William Byron Takes Title – After a year of close calls, Cole Custer controlled Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300, leading 182 of 200 laps, earning the only perfect driver rating in the XFINITY Series this season.

Custer’s dominance could be a preview of 2018 as the 19-year-old is returning to Stewart-Haas Racing. But the bigger story of the night was the epic championship battle between William Byron and Elliott Sadler.

Over the final 103 laps (all under the green flag), the Nos. 1 and 9 cars swapped the championship lead back and forth on several occasions. The turning point came with just under 20 laps to go when Sadler got by Byron, when the rookie got into the wall.

XFINITY Breakdown: Cole Custer Earns 1st Victory, William Byron Captures Title

Sadler controlled the championship until eight laps to go when the veteran went to dive-bomb Ryan Preece for third position on the racetrack as Byron was chasing the No. 1 car back down. Not clearing the No. 18 car, Sadler drifted up the track and into the outside wall, cutting down a tire allowing Byron to cruise to the championship.

Byron graduates the XFINITY Series with four victories and arguably the only car that could compete with the Cup Series regulars on a consistent basis. The championship was JR Motorsports second driver’s championship in the past four seasons. – Dustin Albino

Camping World Truck Series: First-Timers Shine Again in Homestead – For the third straight year, the Camping World Truck Series saw a first-time champion.

This year, it was Christopher Bell, who won five races toward his first title in his second Truck Series season. He finished second in the Ford EcoBoost 200 from Homestead-Miami Speedway, one spot ahead of title contender Johnny Sauter.

Who finished one spot ahead of Bell? A first-timer of a different kind in Chase Briscoe. Driving in the final race for Brad Keselowski Racing in the series, the rookie scored the victory for the first time in his career and last time for BKR.

Tracking the Trucks: Chase Briscoe Scores 1st Career Win at Homestead-Miami Speedway

What makes this duo interesting is what the off-season will involve until Daytona in February. While Bell is confirmed to race full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing in the XFINITY Series, Briscoe’s future is currently unknown for 2017. Perhaps a win was just what he needed to move that needle.

Additionally, the maiden win kept a momentous run for the series to end 2017, standing as the fourth first-time winner in the last month-and-a-half of the season. – Zach Catanzareti

Sports Cars: Pirelli World Challenge Unveils 2018 Schedule – On Friday afternoon, WC Vision released the 2018 schedule for Pirelli World Challenge.  There are a couple of changes to note.

New/returning venues to the schedule include the previously announced Portland weekend in July and Watkins Glen on Labor Day weekend.  In the case of Watkins Glen, the series effectively replaces the Verizon IndyCar Series, a series they regularly support.  Mid-Ohio, which hosted GT/GTA/GT Cup and GTS races on the undercard of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, has been dropped.

Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (CTMP), which hosted the first Sprint-X races back in 2016, will not host a Sprint-X race in 2018.  Instead, the Ontario track will host sprint races for the GT/GTA/GT Cup and GTS classes.  The Touring Car classes will also skip CTMP.

For Touring Car teams, they will end their season with the rest of the classes at Watkins Glen.  Earlier this year, the last two Touring Car races were held on the undercard of the California 8 Hours at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.  While that race will still run (now a couple of weeks later), it will be a “special event” that Pirelli World Challenge hosts. – Phil Allaway

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Frontstretch Staff

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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