Defending Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric among Round of 12 drivers eliminated Saturday

CONCORD, N.C. — No matter what a driver has accomplished in their career, playoff elimination is always a disappointing moment.

After Saturday’s Xfinity Series Round of 12 elimination race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, there may have been no driver more disappointed than last year’s series champion.

RELATED: Official results | Playoff standings

Nearly a year after his surprising and thrilling championship victory at Phoenix Raceway, Daniel Hemric will not defend his Xfinity crown as he finished Saturday’s race 11 points below the elimination line.

After grabbing third on the starting grid, odds appeared to be in Hemric’s favor to point his way through the 72-lap event with favorable track position. However, on Lap 3, his day was ravaged as he went off-course in Turn 5 and slammed the outside barrier. The damage wasn’t enough to end the defending champ’s day but the No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet was grounded toward the rear of the field.

Hemric lugged his car to a 17th-place finish and was blunt on his playoff exit.

“Just made a mistake that you can’t make,” Hemric said. “The rest of the day kinda took care of itself so gotta be better than that. Just wasn’t good enough and when you aren’t good enough, you get beat. That’s what happened today.”

Joining Hemric among the Xfinity Series’ first-round playoff exits were Riley Herbst, Jeremy Clements and Ryan Sieg.

Herbst had the most eventful day of the 12 playoff drivers as he crashed multiple times in the final Stage. The No. 98 Ford ran up front for a majority of the race, scoring second and fifth-place finishes in Stage 1 and Stage 2, respectively. However, the remaining laps spiraled downward for the Las Vegas native, beginning with James Davison running into the back of Herbst’s car on a restart. The left rear of the No. 98 suffered heavy damage, dropping Herbst to the back of the field. Herbst then got caught in a chain reaction stack-up in Turn 2 that elevated his damage, and the final blow came on the first overtime restart as he crashed off Turn 4, ending his day scored in 32nd.

Sieg was the closest of the drivers eliminated to the cutline as he fell just two points below Brandon Jones when the checkered flag flew. Those lost two points came in Stage 2 after a costly mistake from the driver of the No. 39 Ford.

“I messed up and missed the backstretch chicane and lost out on two spots and two points that probably would’ve gotten us in,” Sieg lamented.

Sieg produced great results throughout the Round of 12 with top 10s across the board, including a fourth-place run at Talladega Superspeedway that matched a season-best that also came at Talladega in the spring. While being eliminated from the playoffs, Sieg said he has a lot to be proud of given the circumstance of being a small team going up against the likes of Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Kaulig.

“I was pretty confident. We made some adjustments and got better after Stage 2, ” Sieg added. “Just had to fight hard and do all I could do to gain points because they were letting me know every lap how many we were out. Just wasn’t enough at the end but good fight from our CMR Ford all day long. Just wish I had Stage 2 back. Great day though at a road course for myself and the team. Nothing to be ashamed of. We’ve just got to fight harder because we wanted to be on the other side of it.

“We had three top 10s and one top five in those three races and didn’t make it. Not a whole lot more we could’ve done except get a few more points. Everything kinda didn’t work out too well and found ourselves not getting stage points. We had the right strategy but I just messed up a little bit and cost us a few points.”

Like Sieg, Clements competed and hung with the top teams in the sport to put themselves into the playoffs. However, Clements said the writing on the wall for his postseason came with their engine failure at Texas Motor Speedway that opened the Xfinity Series playoffs.

“Going into Texas, we were excited and then we broke really early,” Clements said. “I knew that was going to be hard to get out of that hole we were in. It was fun to be a part of the playoffs for sure. We won Daytona and that was just badass. We had nothing to lose but unfortunately that engine failure at Texas really put us behind and then Talladega went like none of us thought it would. Here, we didn’t have enough speed and finished 14th.”

This is the second year in a row and third time Clements has been eliminated in the opening playoff round, and while he said he knows the team still has work to do to compete at a high level, he’s positive on where the team is going.

“Racing’s tough and when you are a small team, your back is against the wall all the time so we’re just always trying to get better,” Clements said. “We’ve got some engineering support coming from Chevy and that’s all we can do to make our team better but we definitely got a couple steps to get up there, but we will and I feel good about where we’re at and where we’re going.”

The Xfinity Series Round of 8 begins next Saturday, Oct. 15 with the Alsco Uniforms 302 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).