Race Weekend Central

Denny Hamlin Outduels Austin Hill in Late Restart to Win Xfinity Race at Darlington

Denny Hamlin notched his sixth NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Darlington Raceway on Saturday (Sept. 2) after beating Austin Hill on a late-race restart. Though Hamlin led with 16 laps left in the race, a caution for Ryan Sieg allowed Hill and his quick pit crew to grab the lead on pit road.

Hill and Hamlin seemed poised to battle under green until another caution with seven laps to go. Hill, who had issues getting going on restarts throughout the race, once again could not hold the lead on the final restart, and Hamlin drove away with two laps left.

“I just need to go back to the drawing board and figure out what I’m doing wrong on the restarts,” a frustrated Hill told NBC. “I’ve got to do a better job of that if I’m going to win a championship.”

For race winner Hamlin, it took some time to get acquainted with his ride, but he was confident at the end of the race.

“We did a good job maintaining what we had,” Hamlin said. “It was going to be really cool to see how that race played out, but still, we got the win”

Though polesitter John Hunter Nemechek led the entire opening stage, the first stage did not lack excitement. After starting 12th, Kyle Larson drove up into the top five. The first caution of the race flew on lap 12 when Sammy Smith, who started from the rear, attempted a slide job on Rajah Caruth and slid too far, spinning out in turn 4 and making slight contact with the inside wall.

Eyes turned to the bubble battle, as Riley Herbst drove into the top 10 to earn stage points and close the gap to 12th-place Parker Kligerman. A caution for Josh Williams with a flat tire on lap 43 ended the stage.

Same song, second verse for stage two. Though Hill and the No. 21 pit crew took the lead on pit road, Hill did not get a good restart and Nemechek reclaimed the lead. 

An incident between Anthony Alfredo and Sam Mayer brought out another caution on lap 55 when Alfredo slid up the track and into Mayer exiting turn 4. 

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Nemechek took control of the race on the restart and drove to the stage win. This time, though, Hill hung with Nemechek, and Hill’s pit crew came through again to retake the lead on pit road. 

As with previous restarts, Nemechek bested Hill and took the lead again. Just six laps into the run, another caution occurred on Lap 103 when Kyle Sieg and Jeremy Clements spun off turn 4 after Sieg made contact with Moffit.

A mixed bag of strategy resulted in a number of cars staying out on their slightly-used tires, while Hill and Nemechek took fresh tires. 

On the ensuing restart, got through traffic the best and drove to the lead at lap 111. However, Hamlin, who ran inside the top five for most of the day, made his presence known. After a fierce battle, Hamlin wrestled the lead away from Hill with 23 laps left. 

Hamlin set sail until Ryan Sieg spun out with 16 laps left to bring out another caution. As he had all day, Hill took the lead on pit road. This time, Hill held the lead on the restart, but Nemechek engaged in battle with Hamlin for the second spot.

Another caution flew with seven laps left. Entering turn 3, Mayer overdrove the entry and ran into Kligerman, spinning the No. 48. This accident had major playoff implications, as a great day for the No. 98 of Herbst flipped the script and moved him back just inside the cut line.

While the checkered flag flew over Hamlin, Herbst finished in the sixth position, completing a mistake-free afternoon. With Kligerman’s issues, the two are separated by just one point heading into next week’s regular season finale. 

“He just does dumb stuff like that all the time,” Kligerman said of Mayer. “I don’t know what the reasoning is, but he’s got to clean it up. Hey, we’re going to make it interesting. Let’s go put a show on next week.”

Xfinity Results at Darlington

The Xfinity regular season comes to a close at Kansas Speedway next week with the Kansas Lottery 300. The race coverage starts at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

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