Denny Hamlin Makes Late Move to Win Xfinity Race at Darlington

The NASCAR Cup Series veteran made a late-race move around Austin Hill and John Hunter Nemechek to capture his sixth Xfinity Series victory at Darlington Raceway.


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If there's one thing that Denny Hamlin didn't need heading into the NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener at Darlington Raceway, it's any kind of confidence boost.

On Saturday, the NASCAR Cup Series veteran made his annual appearance in the second-tier series, driving the No. 19 Sport Clips Toyota GR Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing. Needless to say, things went fairly well for the Chesterfield, Virginia native.

While Hamlin didn't have the quickest vehicle throughout the afternoon, the 42-year-old pounced when it mattered, using a series of late-race restarts to make passes on both John Hunter Nemechek and Austin Hill, leading the race's final three laps.

"It took a while, I really needed some long runs, but I didn't really want to show everything that we had there until the end of the race," Hamlin said post-race on the frontstretch. "We really did a good job of maintaining what we had. It was going to be cool to see that race play out, but still, it's a great win."

Saving his stuff for late in the race, Hamlin maintained his position inside the top five throughout the entire afternoon but didn't really get into the thick of the battle for the victory until less than 30 to go, when he took over the lead for the first time.

However, the winning move for Hamlin came on the final restart of the race, when then-race-leader Austin Hill chose the inside line for the restart, with the field on semi-worn tires, giving the No. 19 the chance to get to his outside through the first set of corners.

Once that happened, there was no recovering for Hill, who faded to second place over the race's final two-lap run, with John Hunter Nemechek, who led a race-high 99 laps, finishing in third place.

Cole Custer and Josh Berry came home in fourth and fifth. Riley Herbst, Justin Allgaier, Sheldon Creed, Kyle Busch, and Daniel Hemric completed the top-10. Busch, driving the No. 10 for Kaulig Racing, struggled throughout the afternoon, before coming home just inside the top-10 in his final Xfinity Series event of 2023.

Ross Chastain also competed in Saturday's Xfinity Series event in hopes of gaining repetitions for Sunday's Cook Out Southern 500, but struggled with his No. 91 Use Your Melon Chevrolet Camaro, finishing 23rd for DGM Racing.

Kyle Larson was a contender for the victory throughout the opening laps of the race as well, piloting the Hendrick Motorsports No. 17 in its last event of the season. However, an engine issue in the final stage, would send the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion to the garage for 30 laps, relegating him to a finish of 38th.

With Saturday's Sport Clips VFW 200 serving as the penultimate event of the Xfinity Series regular season, NASCAR Cup Series competitors will not be able to compete in the second-tier series for the remainder of the season, due to NASCAR eligibility rules.

For Hamlin, his focus now shifts to the Cup Series, where he'll start Sunday's playoff opener from the outside of the front row, as a newly-crowned 10-time NASCAR National Series winner at Darlington.

Photo Credit: Tyson Gifford, Racing America

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