Tuesday February 27th, 2024 9:10AM

Denny Hamlin scores overtime Xfinity win at Darlington

By Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service

DARLINGTON, S.C. - Denny Hamlin resumed his NASCAR Xfinity Series mastery of Darlington Raceway on Saturday, winning the race to raise his victory total at the track to six.

Hamlin passed series leader Austin Hill of Winston, Georgia after a lap 147 restart that pushed the race one circuit into overtime. Parker Kligerman’s consequential spin off Sam Mayer’s bumper on lap 141 brought out the seventh caution of the race and set up the final two-lap shootout.

“I really needed some long runs,” said Hamlin, who led 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.”

Hamlin, who was running his annual Xfinity Series race for Joe Gibbs Racing, picked up his 18th victory in the series. On Sunday, he starts his quest for the NASCAR Cup Series title in the Playoff-opening Cook Out Southern 500.

John Hunter Nemechek ran third after leading 99 laps and sweeping the first two stages. Cole Custer was fourth, followed by Josh Berry and Riley Herbst, who passed Parker Kligerman for the final Playoff-eligible position with one race left to decide the postseason field.

Herbst holds a one-point lead over Kligerman, who finished 24th after contact from Mayer sent him spinning from the 12th position with six laps left in regulation.

Kligerman was not pleased with Mayer and said so after the race, especially since he had overcome a slow pit stop and a brush with the outside wall to gain on Herbst.

“To come back from that and have to make a bunch of adjustments, then just get flat run over by the 1 car (Mayer),” Kligerman said. “It’s so disappointing… He’s got to clean it up.”

Mayer, who finished 11th, took responsibility for the incident with the concise admission: “I (messed) up.”

On multiple occasions, Hill took the lead with quick work on pit road but couldn’t hold it through the restarts. Nevertheless, he leaves Darlington with a 23-point lead over Nemechek in the battle for the Xfinity regular-season championship.

“I just need to go back to the drawing board and figure out what I’m doing wrong on the restarts there, because that was really frustrating all day today,” Hill said. “It didn’t matter where I was restarting, I would buzz the tires really bad and just lose track position every time I’d do it.

“So I got to do a better job of that if I’m going to win a championship. All in all, solid for us. That’s kind of something that we’ve been preaching the last six races that if you can’t be first, be second. If you can’t be second, be third. We were second today, but it still stings a little bit when you want to win.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Darlington Raceway – Darlington, SC
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1. (2) Denny Hamlin(i), Toyota, 148.
2. (9) Austin Hill, Chevrolet, 148.
3. (1) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 148.
4. (4) Cole Custer, Ford, 148.
5. (7) Josh Berry, Chevrolet, 148.
6. (15) Riley Herbst, Ford, 148.
7. (3) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 148.
8. (16) Sheldon Creed, Chevrolet, 148.
9. (14) Kyle Busch(i), Chevrolet, 148.
10. (6) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 148.
11. (5) Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 148.
12. (10) Chandler Smith #, Chevrolet, 148.
13. (19) Parker Retzlaff #, Chevrolet, 148.
14. (8) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 148.
15. (17) Corey Heim(i), Toyota, 148.
16. (22) Rajah Caruth(i), Chevrolet, 148.
17. (11) Sammy Smith #, Toyota, 148.
18. (24) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 148.
19. (27) Stefan Parsons, Chevrolet, 148.
20. (31) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 148.
21. (26) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 148.
22. (33) Chad Finchum, Ford, 148.
23. (21) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 148.
24. (13) Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, 148.
25. (18) Brett Moffitt, Ford, 148.
26. (34) Joe Graf, Jr., Ford, 148.
27. (32) Matt Mills(i), Toyota, 148.
28. (30) Kaz Grala, Toyota, 148.
29. (36) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 148.
30. (20) Ryan Sieg, Ford, 148.
31. (28) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 148.
32. (29) Timmy Hill(i), Ford, 148.
33. (23) Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 147.
34. (35) Blaine Perkins #, Chevrolet, 147.
35. (25) Kyle Sieg, Ford, 147.
36. (38) Patrick Emerling, Chevrolet, 145.
37. (37) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 143.
38. (12) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 117.

Average Speed: 106.826 mph.

Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 53 Mins, 53 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.657 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 7 for 34 laps.

Lead Changes: 15 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders: J. Nemechek 1-46;K. Larson(i) 47;A. Hill 48-49;J. Nemechek 50-92;A. Hill 93-95;J. Nemechek 96-104;A. Hill 105;P. Retzlaff # 106-110;A. Hill 111-119;D. Hamlin(i) 120;A. Hill 121-123;D. Hamlin(i) 124-133;A. Hill 134-136;J. Nemechek 137;A. Hill 138-145;D. Hamlin(i) 146-148.

Leaders Summary: (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led) John Hunter Nemechek 4 times for 99 laps; Austin Hill 7 times for 29 laps; Denny Hamlin(i) 3 times for 14 laps; Parker Retzlaff # 1 time for 5 laps; Kyle Larson(i) 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 20,19,17,7,00,21,11,10,16,98

Stage #2 Top Ten: 20,21,17,19,7,00,16,31,98,11

Playoff Standings: 1. John Hunter Nemechek – 945 (5 Wins); 2. Austin Hill – 968 (4 Wins); 3. Justin Allgaier – 935 (2 Wins); 4. Cole Custer – 861 (2 Wins); 5. Sam Mayer – 781 (2 Wins); 6. Chandler Smith – 706 (1 Win); 7. Sammy Smith – 629 (1 Win); 8. Jeb Burton – 592 (1 Win); 9. Josh Berry – 765; 10. Sheldon Creed – 712; 11. Daniel Hemric – 711; 12. Riley Herbst – 657.

(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series

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