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William Byron gives Dale Jr.’s race team Xfinity title

William Byron celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series auto racing season championship, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. (Terry Renna/AP)

William Byron celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series auto racing season championship, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. (Terry Renna/AP)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. got the best retirement gift he could have asked for when William Byron won the Xfinity Series championship for JR Motorsports on Saturday, one day before Earnhardt's final race as a full-time driver.

NASCAR's most popular driver is a part owner of the race team with sister Kelley and boss Rick Hendrick, and JR Motorsports went in to the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a 75 percent chance of winning the title. JRM drivers Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler and Byron were up against Daniel Hemric of Richard Childress Racing for the championship.

Hemric appeared up for the challenge at the start and he led the title contenders until he headed to pit road with a dead battery early in the second stage. The team frantically changed the battery, but his car still had no power after the swap. When Hemric finally got back on the track, he was down 12 laps from the leaders.

That sealed the title for JRM, and the organization only had to watch to see which of its three drivers would take the crown.

Earnhardt and Hendrick watched intently from the top of Byron's pit box. Kelley Earnhardt Miller watched from another. Earnhardt moved to Sadler's pit stall.

Calling the race for Allgaier? Seven-time championship-winning crew chief Chad Knaus, who was filling in for Allgaier's suspended crew chief. Earnhardt likened the call to the bullpen to having Joe Gibbs coach a kid in Pop Warner football.

Although a second title for JRM was in the bag, it wasn't without anxious moments.

"Man, that is tough watching those guys battle like that together," said Earnhardt. "One thing about William winning, the over-the-wall guys I'm pretty close to a lot of them. They pit my car too. It's pretty cool to see these guys enjoy themselves.”

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