Denny Hamlin’s decision to stop for four tires on the final caution proved to be the winning strategy as he rallied to win Saturday’s Hisense 4K TV 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Erik Jones blew a tire with 1 ½ laps left in regulation, bringing out the final caution. Kyle Larson and Joey Logano, who were riding on tires that had 40 laps on them, elected to stay out – while Hamlin came in for new rubber all around on his Toyota.
When the race restarted on Lap 205, Logano had a great jump on Logano and looked like he’d hold on for the win. But then came Hamlin with a full head of steam and fresh rubber, grabbed the lead from Logano on the final lap – while Larson hit the wall – and motored on into victory lane.
“I was hoping for that caution near the end and we got it,” Hamlin said to Fox Sports 1 in victory lane. “And then we took off. Man, what a great day.”
Logano agreed that Hamlin’s decision to pit on the final caution was the race-winning move.
“No doubt about it,.” Logano said. “We had a car capable of winning. If I could clear (Larson on the final restart), which I did, we have a shot. But it’s hard to hold off four tires.”
Hamlin led the most laps (76) in the extended 206-lap event. He also led five different times in the race.
It was Hamlin’s 16th career win in the Xfinity Series and his first Xfinity win in 11 starts at Charlotte (his best finish prior to Saturday were three runner-up showings).
It was also Joe Gibbs Racing’s seventh win in the series thus far in the 2016 season (and eighth Xfinity win at Charlotte).
In addition, it was the fifth win for the No. 18 Toyota in 2016, coming with three different drivers behind the wheel.
Austin Dillon roared past Logano in the closing seconds to take second place, while Logano slipped to third. Cole Cuter finished fourth, followed by Justin Allgaier, Larson, Brandon Jones, Ty Dillon, Brennan Poole and Brendan Gaughan.
HOW HAMLIN WON: It looked like it was going to be a battle to the extended finish between Larson and Logano. But heading into the final lap, Hamlin got a heck of a run, got into Larson’s car and then took aim on Logano, passing him on the final lap for the win. Had Erik Jones’ tire not blown on the original white flag lap (Lap 199), sending the event into overtime., Larson appeared ready to take the win. Plus, the decision by both Larson and Logano’s crew chiefs to keep their drivers out on old tires (40 laps of wear each) backfired. Austin Dillon took two tires, which helped earn him the runner-up finish.
WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Custer made just his second career Xfinity start and finished fourth, topping his previous finish (sixth) and first career start three races ago at Richmond. … Jeb Burton overcame a spin and slight damage during qualifying to finish 11th in Saturday’s race, his second-best finish this season.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Lap 25 was a turning point for a number of drivers. Pole sitter Erik Jones was running second when he got into oil on the track, spun, followed by Daniel Suarez and Elliott Sadler getting into each other, also because of oil on the track. Jones was able to get back on-track and was making his way up the field until he wrecked on Lap 199. He finished 31st. Meanwhile, Suarez and Sadler and Suarez were both able to get their cars repaired and finished 12th and 28th respectively.
NOTABLE: Making his win all the more impressive, Hamlin rebounded from an uncontrolled tire penalty by his team on Lap 160.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s hard to beat four tires when you have 40 laps on your tires. I’m disappointed, but I’m used to it.” – Kyle Larson, who went from looking like he’d win to a disappointing sixth-place finish.
WHAT’S NEXT: Pocono Green 250, June 4, Pocono Raceway.