Daniel Suarez nearly had it: his first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory.
But in the end, it was Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin who won Saturday’s VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 from Darlington Raceway, having passed series rookie Suarez with three laps to go en route to victory.
All was not lost, though; by finishing third, Suarez won $100,000 as part of the Dash 4 Cash promotion, meaning his 73-year-old counterpart, Kurt Kolstad, also won the prize money.
It was a one-two-three finish for the Gibbs team, with Kyle Busch slotting in second after starting 36th.
“Great car,” quipped Hamlin after the race. “You can’t have performances like that without a dominant race car, and obviously Mike Wheeler (crew chief) and these guys have done that for me. I’m awfully proud of this team. Fun to run here in the XFINITY Series.”
Kevin Harvick and Suarez’s fellow series regular Chris Buescher were fourth and fifth, respectively. Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Landon Cassill, Regan Smith and Ross Chastain rounded out the top 10.
In all, there were two cautions for eight laps total, one a competition caution on lap 26 and the other on lap 72 after a Todd Bodine spin.
There were seven lead changes among just three different drivers, Hamlin ahead for 117 laps with Harvick leading 16 laps and Suarez 14.
Buescher’s fifth-place finish vaults him to an even larger lead in the overall points, with Ty Dillon, who finished 15th, now 29 points behind. With his win, Suarez sits seventh.