Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain battle opens the door for Brandon Jones to capture the XFINITY Sports Clips 200
When it comes to late-race battles, the one between Cup Series regular and Ross Chastain had classic written all over it. There were more Darlington Stripes on their cars than possibly the rest of the field, but neither would find their way to the winner’s circle. Coming to the white flag, they would make contact, and it was enough for Brandon Jones to take full advantage of it, flying to the checkers in the XFINITY Sports Clips 200.
“I mean, look at the right side of this thing,” Jones said. “I think everybody’s looks like this and that is what is so much fun about this track. This is a tough place to get around. You saw them really racing hard, and I knew I was catching them. We knew we was going to pull that big slider and that’s what you have to do sometimes to clear them . All-in-all, we had the Robert Huffman paint scheme. This is so big for Toyota. Myself, oh my gosh, this place is huge on so many levels on Southern 500 weekend. We will take it. Three wins this year. We will keep going. I think more to come.”
KEEPING EYES ON THE LEADERS
Jones has hanging around the leaders all afternoon with a sixth in stage one and second in the next. Hamlin swept both and appeared to have the best car, winning the first after starting last, then coming back from a bad pit stop to take the second. The only thing standing in the way of his sixth career XFINITY win was Chastain until they mixed it up down the stretch.
“I’ve been in this position actually a few times,” Jones continued, when asked when he though he had a shot at the win. “I did it at Kansas when I won, and that’s what came to mind. I knew I need to back the entry up whenever they were racing really hard, and that was my only option to try to get a better exit than them.”
Jones scored his third win of the season, two in the last seven, and has a top-ten finish in half of his XFINITY Series starts this year. His best previous finish at Darlington Raceway was a seventh last year.
Chastain hung on for second, while Hamlin ended up fifth. Ryan Sieg and rookie Riley Herbst finished third and fourth, respectively.
With three races left (two at Richmond, and one at Bristol), the playoff bubble looks like this: Ryan Sieg (+120), Brandon Brown (+45), Jeremy Clements (-45), and Myatt Snider (-51).
SPORTS CLIPS 200 PRERACE NOTES
>> No cars got sent to the rear; however, Josh Williams No. 92 Chevy failed inspection twice and will lose pit selection for Sept. 12 race at Richmond.
>> Denny Hamlin will be in the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and start last. He is the only Cup Series regular in this race. Kyle Busch will be back in the No. 54 next week at Richmond, his fifth and final 2020 race in the XFINITY Series
>> Rookies in the field: Harrison Burton (No. 20), Riley Herbst (No. 18), Jesse Little (No. 4), Myatt Snider (No. 93), Joe Graf Jr. (No. 08), and Kody Vanderwal (No. 52).
>> Ineligible for points: Hamlin, Brett Moffitt (No. 02), Austin Hill (No. 61), and Bayley Currey (No. 74).
>> From AP Pool Report: There were no fans at the track, although Darlington got permission from the state for about 8,000 to attend the Southern 500 on Sunday night.
SPORTS CLIPS 200 RACE BREAKDOWN – STAGE 1
LAP 1: Engines fired at 12:20 p.m. ET, green flag 12:33. Justin Haley (pole) and Chase Briscoe lead the field of 37 to the green.
LAP2: Anthony Alfredo slides up the track, makes contact with Justin Allgaier, and cars stacked up behind. Others involved in the first race-related caution were Kyle Weatherman, Daniel Hemric, Ryan Sieg, and Brandon Brown. Hemric and Weatherman out of the race. Competition caution moved to Lap 20. Restart Lap 9.
LAP 20: Competition Caution. Leaders: Chastain, Cindric, Briscoe, Haley, Gragson, H Burton, Allgaier, Br Jones, Hamlin, Williams. Hamlin 37th to 9th in 20 laps. Ryan Sieg free pass. Choose rule restart: Haley, Gragson, Allgaier, Hamlin, and Moffitt pick up two sports each. Briscoe -3, Cindric, HJ Burton, and B Jones all -2. Restart Lap 26.
LAP 34: Favored despite starting last, Denny Hamlin takes the lead.
LAP 45: End Stage 1 with Hamlin having a four-second advantage over Ross Chastain and green-white checkers. After pit stops, Hamlin falls out of top-ten. Gainers: Briscoe +3, Br Jones +3, H Burton +5. Losers: Martins -3, Hamlin -11. Brandon Brown gets back on the lead lap with the free pass. Restart Lap 52, Briscoe on point.
SPORTS CLIPS 200 RACE BREAKDOWN – STAGE 2
LAP 89 (for caution): Gragson spins, along with Chastain and Dexter Bean. End Stage 2, clean and green to that point. Denny Hamlin recovers from a slow pit stop at the end of stage one, came back to win it after taking the lead with seven to go. Justin Allgaier behind the wall with mechanical problems. Race off pit row, Hamlin comes out third behind Briscoe and Chastain. Biggest gainer: Mishael Annett +3. Allgaier back on track but a dozen laps in arrears. Ryan Vargas free pass. Restart Lap 96.
SPORTS CLIPS RACE BREAKDOWN – STAGE 3
LAP 101: Jeremy Clements stalls on the backstretch. Of dozen leaders, six come to pits; others stay out. Hamlin assumes the lead from Briscoe, who came in for tires. Hamlin crew chief holding on to his two sets of tires. Those who pitted down to one. David Starr gets the Lucky Dog. Restart Lap 107.
LAP 109: After getting a free pass, David Starr loses his right front and hits the wall to bring out the yellow flag. The three leaders, Hamlin, Br Jones, and Chastain came in for service this time and took on tires and fuel. Of those who pitted, the race off pit row had Jones (+2), Chastain, Cindric, Hamlin (-3), Haley, Gragson (+5), Annett, Snider, and Williams. Top-8 stayed out: Briscoe, Alfredo, Sieg, H Burton, Herbst, Moffitt, Howard, and Jeffrey Earnhardt. Jesse Little free pass recipient.
LAP 117: Fluid from Brett Moffit leads to spin by Briscoe, who was leading, and Alfredo. **RED FLAG** for cleanup. Top-five with 28 to go: Sieg, H Burton, Chastain, Hamlin, and Herbst. Twenty cars will be on the lead lap after Brandon Brown gets the free pass. Red Flag lifted (the delay was 8:59) with 28 to go. Restart Lap 126.
LAP 137: Battle between Chastain and Hamlin have both cars getting the Darlington Stripe. Hamlin keeps trying to overtake the leader as laps click off, but Chastain fights off the charge by the No. 54. Both scrape the wall numerous times and make contact with each other allowing Brandon Jones to slip past both at the white flag and continue for the victory in the XFINITY Sports Clips 200 .
STAGE 1-2 TOP 10 FINISHERS – LAPS 45 / 90
1 – Hamlin, Chastain, Cindric, Briscoe, Gragson, Brandon Jones, Martins, Annett, Sieg, Allgaier.
2 – Hamlin, Brandon Jones, Briscoe, Chastain, H Burton, Sieg, Gragson, Cindric, Annett, Clements
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