Denny Hamlin earns fifth Xfinity Series win at Darlington with last-lap pass

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Denny Hamlin won the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 with a last-lap pass of Joey Logano in Turn 4 in an overtime finish.

Logano had passed Hamlin going into Turn 3 before Hamlin went back beneath Logano through Turn 4.

It is Hamlin’s fifth Xfinity Series win at Darlington Raceway. All five have come from the pole.

“Just a really good restart, got through Turns 1 and 2 really good,” Hamlin told NBCSN at the start-finish line. “Great run by the 22 (Logano) getting back to me on the last lap. I think that was a throwback to Dale Earnhardt there in (Turns) 3 and 4.”

Hamlin led 33 laps. He took the lead on the overtime finish, pulling ahead of Logano.

“We definitely didn’t have the best handling car the beginning of the race,” Hamlin told NBCSN in victory lane. “We got it better there at the end. I actually was hating it that that caution came out because I thought I could run down (Harvick). We made it a little more exciting.”

The victory is the second of the year for Hamlin and the 17th of his Xfinity career. The race went 148 laps, one more than scheduled.

Kevin Harvick had been leading in the closing laps until Dakoda Armstrong spun with 10 laps to go in the original distance. That set up pit stops where Harvick lost the lead to Logano, who led a race-high 58 laps.

The overtime finish was set up by a crash involving Elliott Sadler on the ensuing restart.

“It would have been more fun if the caution didn’t come out, that would have been more fun for me,” Logano told NBCSN. “Denny had a great restart, went through the gearbox and motored me down into Turn 1 and had position on me. … (On the last lap) was able to get underneath him off of Turn 2. He knew my play. I knew what his play was going to be as soon as the spotter yelled ‘clear.’ I thought ‘that’s way too early in the corner to be clear.’ ”

Completing the top five were Harvick, Erik Jones and William Byron.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kevin Harvick

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kevin Harvick

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Harvick led 54 laps before losing the lead during pit stops following Armstrong’s caution. His finish is his best at Darlington in 15 starts … Byron finished fifth in his first Darlington start after bouncing back from having to pit a second time under yellow on Lap 94 for a loose lug nut … Brandon Brown finished 20th in his first Darlington start after running in the top 15 for much of the race … Jeremy Clements finished 21st in the first race since wining at Road America.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Matt Tifft spun and crashed into the inside wall as the field completed Lap 1 after he made contact with Ross Chastain. He finished last with his second DNF of the season … Spencer Gallagher spun on Lap 99 after being tapped from behind by Ben Kennedy. He finished 34th … Elliott Sadler, the defending race winner, was in the top five all day until he hit the outside wall on the frontstretch with five to go in the original distance after being turned by Erik Jones. It resulted in his third DNF of the year. He finished 33rd.

NOTABLE: Cole Custer, Daniel Hemric and Brennan Poole all clinched a spot in the playoffs on point. … Hamlin’s five wins breaks a tie with Jeff Burton and Harry Gant for second most at Darlington. Mark Martin has eight.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I was six, seven, eight car lengths ahead and that’s when you pray for no caution and then you see in the mirror there’s just smoke and everything. I’m like, ‘Please, don’t hit that hard.’” – Joey Logano on the caution the set of the overtime finish.

WHAT’S NEXT: Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond Raceway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 8 on NBCSN.

NASCAR America: Importance of keeping NASCAR connected to grassroots racing

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The importance of grassroots racing to the future of NASCAR is a constant subject these days thanks to the likes of Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson.

Now NASCAR America’s Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton get their chance to sound off on the subject.

On Tuesday’s episode, the panel of analysts discussed why keeping NASCAR connected to the short tracks and lower series across the country is vital to the sport’s future.

“We don’t have that national series running old short tracks that draws people to the race track but also draws them to the TV on Saturday and Sunday,” Burton said.

Earnhardt brought up an attempt by Bristol Motor Speedway to purchase the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee, last year.  The attempted failed.

“My heart was broken because I thought we had a real opportunity to bring one of the touring series, either the Truck or Xfinity, back to Fairgrounds,” Earnhardt said. “That’s where I think we’re broken or disconnected. The late model guys and the guys that are running on these local tracks don’t have the connection to the Truck Series or Xfinity Series. They need to take those series, Truck or Xfinity, back to the short tracks and bridge that link.”

The three analysts went on to discuss the short tracks and races that were part of their formative racing years.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Scan All from Auto Club Speedway

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Martin Truex Jr. was once again in championship form Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.

That fact frustrated some drivers, especially Kyle Busch.

You can hear his frustrations and more in this week’s Scan All.

Here are some highlights.

— “I mean, he’s a (expletive) idiot for racing that hard 30 laps into a (expletive) race.” – Chad Johnston, crew chief for Kyle Larson after contact with Kevin Harvick wrecked Harvick on Lap 39.

Johnston’s tone cooled once Harvick owned up to his mistake.

“Harvick’s taking responsibility for that, so don’t sweat it,” Johnston said.

— “You did a hell of a job keeping it off that inside wall. I was watching on the roof cam and was like, ‘Oh Lord, don’t hit that one.” – Rodney Childers, crew chief of Harvick.

— “I don’t know what the (expletive) he’s got going on, but damn I don’t have that.” – Kyle Busch observing how much better Martin Truex Jr.’s car was performing

— “This thing went from absolutely horrible to even worse than that.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

— “I don’t even know what the hell we’re doing, what the hell’s going on and what we’re going to do next. It’s been the same all day. We haven’t made any ground on it.” – Kyle Busch as he struggled to keep pace with Larson and Truex.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Biggest storylines through five race weekends

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After five races in the Cup season, NASCAR America’s analysts assessed what the biggest storylines are ahead of this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton took turns sharing what’s stood out to them.

Jeff Burton started off by saying Kevin Harvick‘s success was the “easy answer.”

Burton discussed his surprise at Chevrolet teams underperforming.

“It reminds you in racing that you don’t really know what’s going to happen until it happens,” Burton said. “I’m surprised we haven’t seen more performance from the new Chevy body.”

Earnhardt was surprised at how big Martin Truex Jr’s margin of victory was on Sunday. He beat Kyle Busch by 11.6 seconds.

“I felt like in the first couple of races, maybe we got tricked into thinking the new inspections process had maybe leveled the playing field a little bit, even though Harvick won three in a row,” Earnhardt said. “Then Truex goes out and does what he did last year, maybe even better than he did last year.”

Letarte said his “big shock” for 2018 has been the “lack of change.”

“It’s the same players leading laps that we saw in 2017,” Letarte said. “Everyone is trying to catch up. I’ve always found it the hardest to continue to push your guys, continue to push your race cars when you’re already winning. It’s easy when you’re getting beat to motivate everybody.”

Earnhardt also observed how younger drivers have struggled to shine through five races.

“Across the board, the young guys still aren’t measuring up to the veterans yet,” Earnhardt said.

Watch the above video for more.

Daniel Hemric to make Cup debut at Richmond Raceway in April

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Xfinity Series driver Daniel Hemric will make his Cup debut next month at Richmond Raceway, Richard Childress Racing announced Tuesday on Fox Sports 1’s “NASCAR Race Hub.”

Hemric, 27, will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet for RCR at Richmond on April 21. He will also compete in the Sept. 30 race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

A native of Kannapolis, North Carolina, Hemric will be sponsored by Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff in both races. The company serves as an associate sponsor on Hemric’s No. 21 car in the Xfinity Series.

“You only get one chance to make your Cup Series debut, and it is pretty incredible to know that I am able to do it with Richard Childress Racing and with a partner such as Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff,” Hemric said in a press release. “RCR and Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff have been so influential in so many drivers’ careers – a lot of my heroes growing up. To know they will play a large role in the next step of my career and my initial Cup Series debut is very special.”

MORE: Daniel Hemric’s racing career saved by a Ford Mustang

“Since joining our organization, Daniel Hemric has shown his determination and dedication to this sport both on and off the track,” said Richard Childress in a press release. “Making his Cup Series debut is the next step in his career and we are proud to have him take that step with RCR.”

Hemric is in his second full-time season with RCR in the Xfinity Series. Last season he was part of the championship four at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Through five races this season, Hemric is fifth in the standings.

“To make my debut at Richmond will make me feel at home, since I spent years coming up through the ranks at short tracks across the country,” Hemric said. “To do it again in front of my hometown crowd in Charlotte later in the year is an overwhelming feeling. Many people have laid everything on the line to get me to this point and I am extremely grateful to all of those people for putting me in position to get this shot in the Cup Series. These are going to be two very special weekends, to say the least.”

The Richmond race weekend won’t be Hemric’s first time in a Cup car. He was called on by RCR last year to drive Ryan Newman’s car in a Goodyear tire test on the CMS road course. He also practiced and qualified Paul Menard‘s car last November at Texas Motor Speedway.

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