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Sun, Sept. 22

Denny Hamlin wins Xfinity race at Darlington

Denny Hamlin celebrates after winning the NASCAR Xfinity auto race at Darlington Raceway, Saturday, Sept. 2, in Darlington, S.C. (Terry Renna/AP)

Denny Hamlin celebrates after winning the NASCAR Xfinity auto race at Darlington Raceway, Saturday, Sept. 2, in Darlington, S.C. (Terry Renna/AP)

DARLINGTON, S.C. — If Denny Hamlin’s in the Xfinity lineup at Darlington Raceway, he’ll be tough to beat. If he starts from the pole, the rest of the field has little chance.

Hamlin passed Joey Logano coming out of the final turn to win his fifth Xfinity race at Darlington, all when starting from the pole. He’s finished first or second the last eight times he raced in NASCAR’s Triple-A series at Darlington.

“Denny’s persistent. He’s got a gift for this place and it shows up here and on the Cup side as well,” Joe Gibbs Racing executive Steve de Souza said.

It looked as if Hamlin might finish high but outside of Victory Lane once Logano broke free on a restart six laps from the end. But a caution came out for the ninth and final time when series points leader Elliott Sadler hit the wall attempting to move up.

That set up a dramatic, two lap duel for the win where Hamlin opened strongly on the restart, then found himself behind Logano on the final lap before repassing his rival heading to the backstretch for the win. It was Hamlin’s second Xfinity win this season and, with his fifth win at the track “Too Tough To Tame” moved him to second all-time behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch for most wins from the pole at a single track. Busch has won six races from the pole at Phoenix Raceway.

“It worked out well,” Hamlin said. “Glad we were able to clear him coming out of (turn) four or it could’ve been a lot more exciting.”

Kevin Harvick finished third with Erik Jones fourth, giving drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series the top four spots. William Byron, who’ll join them in the big series next year, was the first Xfinity regular finishing fifth.

Harvick, who led 57 laps, won the first and second stages and appeared at times to have the strongest car in the field. But he got caught in traffic on the late restarts to fall from contention. “We got loose and then we got freight-trained,” he said. “But just a great car. It wound up being a great race and that’s all you can ask for.”

Logano led the most laps, 58 of 147. When he got clear of the field with six laps left, Logano thought he would have a chance to take things to the end.

“You say, ‘All right, I’ve got this thing as long as there isn’t another caution,’ and, of course, there was,” Logano said.

Brennan Poole was sixth, followed by Ty Dillon, Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer and Austin Dillon rounded out the top 10. Sadler remained in the points lead despite the late accident that saw him finish 33.

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