Denny Hamlin has snapped a NASCAR Xfinity Series winless streak that – per NASCAR’s records – has lasted a total of six years, scoring the win in Saturday’s Sport Clips VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway.
The Chesterfield, Virginia native put his annual appearance in the second-tier series to use, utilizing a series of good restarts to make quick passes on series regulars Austin Hill and John Hunter Nemechek, leading the final three laps en route to his 18th Xfinity Series win.
Contrary to the prevailing thought entering Saturday’s event, Hamlin wasn’t the dominant driver by any means, leading only 14 of 148 laps, and not occupying the lead until inside the final 30 laps of the event.
In fact, it was Joe Gibbs Racing teammate John Hunter Nemechek, who beat Hamlin for the pole earlier on Saturday, that was the leading car all afternoon, leading a race-high 99 of 148 laps, but wound up finishing in third, behind Hamlin and Austin Hill.
At some point throughout the event, each of the top three finishers was locked into an intense battle with one another, which provided a fantastic show all throughout the duration of the 148-lap contest.
Hill, who leaves Darlington with the regular-season points lead, came up just short of the victory, after a difficult decision to choose the inside lane on the final restart of the event, which came with just two laps remaining.
Cole Custer came home in fourth, trailing behind the top-three drivers in his No. 00 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing. Josh Berry, who complained throughout the entire afternoon about a horrendous car, scored a top-five result in the No. 8.
With his fifth-place result, Berry is now mathematically locked into the NASCAR Xfinity Series post-season, which is set to begin two weeks from now at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Riley Herbst made ground on the playoff bubble with a sixth-place finish, and now leaves Darlington just a single point above the cutline, after Parker Kligerman ran into some late-race issues with Sam Mayer, relegating him to a finish of 24th.
Justin Allgaier came home in seventh, while Sheldon Creed, Kyle Busch, and Daniel Hemric completed the top-10 in the Sport Clips VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway.
Kyle Larson, who was a contender throughout the early portion of the event, finished in 38th place, after his Hendrick Motorsports No. 17 Chevrolet Camaro suffered an engine issue, sending him to the garage for the majority of the final stage.
Heading into the regular-season finale at Kansas Speedway, Austin Hill holds a 23-point advantage over second-place John Hunter Nemechek, and a 33-point advantage over third-place Justin Allgaier. Cole Custer and Sam Mayer round out the top-five.