Hamlin edges Hill to secure Xfinity win at Darlington

Hamlin edges Hill to secure Xfinity win at Darlington

Denny Hamlin emerged as the winner after overtaking Austin Hill in the closing laps of the Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

Denny Hamlin cemented his dominance at Darlington Raceway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series by winning the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help a Hero 200 on Saturday, and extended his record at the track to six victories.

Hamlin, who was running his annual Xfinity Series race with Joe Gibbs Racing, picked up his 18th victory in the series with the Darlington win.

“I really needed some long runs,” said Hamlin, who led for only 14 laps and didn’t make his move until the final stage. “But I didn’t really want to show everything that we had till the very end of the race there.

“We really did a good job of maintaining everything that we had.”

Austin Hill and John Hunter Nemechek held the lead for the better part of the Saturday race, but Hamlin remained behind the leaders for the greater part of the afternoon’s action. Then, following a late caution that forced an overtime restart, Hamlin passed Hill by Turn 1 and never gave up the lead.

The seventh caution of the race was triggered by Parker Kligerman’s unfortunate contact with Sam Mayer’s bumper on lap 141, leading up to the final two-lap shootout.

For the second time in his five races at Darlington, Nemechek secured the pole position, which led him to dominate the first two stages. The Xfinity Series lead has been switching between him and Austin Hill, who is the current points leader, through the season.

Another caution came with seven laps remaining when Sam Mayer clipped Parker Kligerman, sending him spinning sideways and towards the wall.

Kligerman expressed his displeasure with Mayer after the race, especially in light of the fact that the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet overcame a sluggish pit stop and a close encounter with the outside wall to overtake Herbst.

Hill finished second as John Hunter Nemechek finished third, and Cole Custer was fourth. Josh Berry and Riley Herbst rounded out the top five after the latter passed Parker Kligerman for the final Playoff-eligible position with one race left to decide the postseason field.

The driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota now trails Hill in the series standings by 23 points.

Kligerman jumped into the 12th and last playoff berth on Saturday after six consecutive top-10 performances. However, Kligerman, who had finished as high as 13th in his previous three Xfinity Series races at Darlington, dropped all the way to 24th.

“To come back from that and have to make a bunch of adjustments, then just get flat run over by the No. 1 car,” Kligerman said. “It’s so disappointing… He’s got to clean it up.”

Mayer, who finished 11th, took responsibility for the incident.

Only 12 drivers will qualify for the Xfinity Series playoffs, which begin Sept. 15 at Bristol, unlike the Cup Series’ 16-driver playoffs that open Sunday at Darlington.

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