By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – They’re not exactly the Three Musketeers.
It won’t be “one for all, and all for one” when three JR Motorsports teammates—Elliott Sadler, William Byron and Justin Allgaier—take the green flag in Saturday’s Ford Eco-Boost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
In fact, all three drivers, along with Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric, will be competing for the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship trophy, and there’s only one of those to go around.
That doesn’t mean the teammates won’t race each other—or Hemric, for that matter—with respect.
“We have four race teams that were successful all season, and we race each other with the utmost respect,” said Allgaier, who will compete on Saturday without crew chief Jason Burdett, under suspension for a inspection violation last weekend at Phoenix.
“We race each other hard, we race each other clean, and Daniel fits right in on that. Daniel is an extremely clean race car driver. So I feel like, even though we’re teammates, and even though we race each other differently than we would other competitors, I feel like the four guys that we have going for the championship have an equal and mutual respect for each other.
“It’s going to be a clean and hard battle all the way until the checkered flag.”
Until the checkered flag, or until the final lap?
“Even in that circumstance—we can all talk a big game, right?—knowing my teammates and knowing Daniel, it’s going to be a hard battle,” Allgaier said. “If we’re running 1-2-3-4 coming to the checkered, it’s going to be a dogfight.
“But I think it’s going to be the cleanest dogfight you’ve seen in a number of years.”
Sadler sees it the same way, although, for the 41-year-old veteran, this is the only race of the season that really matters.
“I know who I’m racing against and what I’m racing against,” said Sadler, who is seeking his first NASCAR championship. “My guys … they’ve all been sharing information this week. The crew chiefs and all are still doing the same protocol they’ve always done. I think Justin, William and myself understand that it’s one race for one championship.
“We’re going to race each other hard. We understand that all the chips are on the table, and we all klnow what each other’s got, which is a little bit different from racing people from other teams. I know William’s setup, and I know Justin’s, and we’re all going to know what each other’s fighting. So there’s a lot more information on the table.
“But I think we’re going to race each other hard. You don’t get this opportunity all the time, and you’ve got to take advantage of it when you get it.”
Unlike Sadler and Allgaier, Byron will be moving on after this season as he steps up to a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ride with Hendrick Motorsports. So does Byron perhaps stop being a teammate one race early?
“I don’t think (you) ever (stop),” Byron said. “You’re out there for yourself, though. You’re there to try and win for your team. You want the other guys on your team to win if you can’t, but you’re going out there to compete for a championship.
“That’s our goal, and we’re going to race those guys just like we have all year—race them clean, and we’re not going to have any issues.”
The three JRM drivers, however, can’t afford to ignore Hemric, who qualified for the Championship 4 race on points last Saturday at Phoenix. Hemric is driving a brand new car in the all-Chevrolet matchup at Homestead, and he doesn’t feel challenged in the speed department.
“The hardest part is to get to this point,” Hemric said. “Everybody’s even going into a one-race match, and that’s pretty exciting to be a part of. Those guys have three cars to worry about. We’ve got one.”