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Denny Hamlin Outruns Joe Gibbs Racing Teammates To Win VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 In Darlington

Denny Hamlin Outruns Joe Gibbs Racing Teammates To Win VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 In Darlington

by September 5, 2015 0 comments

Photo Credit: Wayne Thomas

DARLINGTON, SC – It seems Denny Hamlin has a special relationship with the Lady in Black. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver dominated the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 for his fourth career NASCAR XFINITY Series victory at Darlington Raceway.

Though he was challenged by a tenacious Kevin Harvick during the race’s midpoint and forced to overcome an off-sequence fuel strategy, Hamlin led 117 of 147 laps. Hamlin’s masterpiece was a Darlington Raceway, NASCAR XFINITY Series record with an average speed of 167.288 mph.

“You can’t do it – you can’t have performances like that without a dominant race car, and obviously Mike Wheeler (Crew Chief) and these guys have done that for me,” Hamlin said.

The race was a podium sweep for the Joe Gibbs Racing organization, with Kyle Busch finishing second and rookie, Daniel Suarez stretching fuel mileage to finish third. Suarez’s strategy allowed him to lead 14 laps in the race before ultimately being passed by Hamlin with three laps remaining. Suarez claimed the NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash award, collecting an additional $100,000 bonus.

If Hamlin put on a clinic, Busch put on the race’s best show. Busch was forced to start in the rear of the 40-car field due to a pair of pre-race penalties, but he was able to crack the top-10 by lap 15 and entered the top-five during a competition caution on lap 25.

Though Busch felt he had a car to contend with his teammate, he said pit strategy cost him a shot at the win.

“I got within a second of them, but then pit strategy there at the end – Denny being short on fuel – it won them the race,” Busch said. “Getting those tires way earlier than everybody else just gave them such a big cushion that it was too much to overcome, so the Monster Energy Camry comes second.”

Hamlin’s winning pit strategy came by accident. During the race’s second and last caution on lap 70, Hamlin’s team failed to totally fill the No. 20 Sport Clips Toyota with fuel, forcing a premature final pit stop. This allowed Hamlin to run the race’s final laps on fresh tires, gaining time on the field. The miscue may have been a blessing in disguise.

“We didn’t get the car full on the last stop, which is maybe a blessing in disguise actually because we had to short pit there and with that short pit I scraped the wall 10 laps before we pitted,” Hamlin said. “I thought I had significant damage and almost a cut tire, so it forced us to pit road early and then the only thing that kind of burns you there is getting caught on the race track when a caution comes out, so we were able to get through that.

“I didn’t think anyone could make it fuel and then I saw those guys stretching it and the pace that we were running I knew it would be close, but it looked like the 18 (Daniel Suarez) picked up speed with about eight (laps ) to go and I didn’t think – still with eight laps to go, I couldn’t see him.”

Suarez’s first trip to Darlington was a surprising success. Though the former Drive for Diversity driver was certainly thankful to collect the season’s fourth and final Dash 4 Cash bonus, with the final flag in sight he had grand visions.

“I can’t thank enough everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing,” Suarez said. “They are doing just an amazing job. I feel like I learned a lot from this weekend. This race track was something brand new for me, something very different than everything I have raced before and I feel like I leave this historic place with a third-place finish and the Dash 4 Cash – this is just really good.

Suarez is grateful for the opportunity to be at Darlington. At one point, the driver nearly gave up his dream of racing before being selected for the diversity program.

“Everything, I remember it like it was yesterday three years ago I came here to the United States without speaking English, without friends, without sponsors and we were just looking for an opportunity,” Suarez said. “I tried to do it by myself and things didn’t work out. I was pretty much ready to go back to my country, to Mexico, just to try to make my racing career down in Mexico and I had the opportunity with Drive For Diversity and I said, ‘Why? Well, why not? It can be a pretty good opportunity,’ and everything started from there.

Harvick, who ran second to Hamlin most of the day, kept the race from being a blowout by clawing for the lead at the race’s midpoint. The two drivers swapped the lead in lapped traffic a handful of times before Hamlin eventually pulled away. In the end, a poor late race pit stop ended Harvick’s bid for victory, forcing the JR Motorsports driver to settle for fourth.

Point leader, Chris Buescher extended his lead with a top-five finish. Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Landon Cassill, Regan Smith and Ross Chastain rounded out the top-10.

Up next on the schedule for the NASCAR XFINITY Series is the Virginia529 College Savings 250 at Richmond International Raceway on Friday,September 11. Coverage for the event will broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 7:30 p.m. ET.

VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 Results:

1.) #20 Denny Hamlin

2.) #54 Kyle Busch

3.) #18 Daniel Suarez

4.) #88 Kevin Harvick

5.) #60 Chris Buescher

6.) #22 Joey Logano

7.) #42 Kyle Larson

8.) #01 Landon Cassill

9.) #7 Regan Smith

10.) #4 Ross Chastain

11.) #1 Elliott Sadler

12.) #2 Brian Scott

13.) #62 Brendan Gaughan

14.) #6 Darrell Wallace Jr.

15.) #3 Ty Dillon

16.) #28 JJ Yeley

17.) #39 Ryan Sieg

18.) #43 Dakoda Armstrong

19.) #14 Cale Conley

20.) #51 Jeremy Clements

21.) #97 Parker Kligerman

22.) #44 David Starr

23.) #16 Ryan Reed

24.) #9 Chase Elliott

25.) #33 Paul Menard

26.) #25 John Wes Townley

27.) #8 Blake Koch

28.) #24 Eric McClure

29.) #90 Todd Bodine

30.) #52 Joey Gase

31.) #13 BJ McCleod

32.) #70 Derrike Cope

33.) #0 Harrison Rhodes

34.) #74 Mike Harmon

35.) #89 Morgan Shepherd

36.) #26 TJ Bell

37.) #15 Carlos Contreras

38.) #19 Jeff Green

39.) #40 Carl Long

40.) #17 Ryan Ellis

Jason Beck
With a passion for both racing and writing, I've found my niche here at The Fourth Turn. In addition to covering local short track and Cup series racing, I'm a racer in the Charger class at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C.

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