Denny Hamlin dominates to lead JGR sweep at Darlington
DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) Nobody had anything for Denny Hamlin at Darlington Raceway, even after a fueling issue wrecked his strategy in the Xfinity Series race.
Hamlin had to make his final pit stop early because his Joe Gibbs Racing team failed to get enough gas in his tank on his prior pit stop Saturday.
When teammate Daniel Suarez tried to steal the win by stretching his fuel to the finish, it briefly seemed as if Hamlin would lose a race he dominated. Instead, he ran down Suarez with three laps remaining to deny Suarez his first career victory.
Hamlin led 117 of the 147 laps to give Toyota and JGR the win. JGR drivers have won eight of the last 10 series races at Darlington, and six of the last 12 Xfinity Series races this season.
''I'm almost glad we didn't (fill the tank),'' Hamlin said. ''We didn't want a caution to fall and trap us there, but I scraped the wall and kind of misjudged my line one time and got a little right-side damage and the car just stopped turning. I'm not sure if my right-front would have made the distance or not.''
On the fresher tires, with no concern about his damage after the pit stop, he easily chased down Suarez. It was Hamlin's third series win of the season, and all three have come from the pole.
JGR driver Kyle Busch passed Suarez for second, and Suarez finished third as the fleet of Toyotas swept the top three spots.
''Coming home 1-2-3, Joe Gibbs Racing, is pretty stout,'' said Busch, who started at the back of the field because he was penalized in qualifying earlier Saturday for violating a NASCAR blend-line rule.
Initially not concerned about his starting position because he felt so strongly about his car, he ultimately couldn't run down Hamlin.
''Felt like we were running those guys back down, just not enough,'' Busch said. ''Kind of surprised me the 20 (Hamlin) was as good as they were.''
Suarez won a $100,000 bonus from series sponsor Xfinity and its Dash-For-Cash four-race program. Suarez also won the bonus at Bristol two weeks ago, and won it two of the three times he was eligible.
It was Suarez's first career race at Darlington.
''When my team told me we were good on fuel, they were telling me to be aggressive and save fuel,'' Suarez said. ''It's hard to save fuel when you are on the lead. You want to go, but if I go, we run out of fuel.''
Kevin Harvick finished fourth in a Chevrolet and was followed by series points leader Chris Buescher in a Ford. Buescher has a 29-point lead over Ty Dillon, who finished 15th.
Harvick thought his only shot at the win came when Chase Elliott had a late engine problem that he hoped would draw a yellow flag and give him a shot at Hamlin.
''The 9 (Chase Elliott) hit the wall and was blowing up or something,'' Harvick said. ''We stayed out a few extra laps thinking that the caution might come out. Denny had the best car.''