By AMANDA VINCENT
The VFW Sports Clips Help a Hero 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on Saturday included six Sprint Cup Series drivers in the race field, but in the end, Elliott Sadler, an Xfinity Series regular and championship-eligible driver was in victory lane after holding off Sprint Cup interloper Denny Hamlin, a four-time winner in Xfinity Series action at Darlington. And even though Sadler had never led more than 12 laps in a single race at Darlington before, he led just over half of Saturday’s race, running up front for 75 laps.
“This is for Dale Earnhardt Jr.,” Sadler said. “My owner has given me one heck of an opportunity. I know he’s gone through a lot this year. This one’s for you, my man.”
The win was Sadler’s first Darlington victory across all three of NASCAR’s three national divisions, coming in his 32nd, overall, NASCAR start at the track. It was his 13th Xfinity Series attempt at the historic South Carolina track.
“I’ve been wanting to win here for a long time,” Sadler said.
In all, three Xfinity regulars posted top-five finishes. Joining Sadler in the top-five were Daniel Suarez in third and Brennan Poole in fifth. Kyle Larson finished fourth.
Sadler started the race third and moved up to second right after the drop of the green flag. On lap seven, he took the lead from pole sitter and Richard Childress Racing teammate Paul Menard.
Hamlin took the lead from Sadler on lap 48 and maintained his lead on pit road during a lap 52 caution. On lap 91, though, Larson took the lead.
Larson spun as the race leader, attempting to get onto pit road during a cycle of green-flag stops on lap 103. His spin that wound up collecting Carl Long, Ross Chastain and Ryan Blaney resulted in the third and final caution of the race.
The race restarted with Hamlin and Sadler on the front row, Hamlin as the race leader. Sadler, though, took the lead on the final restart and ran up front the rest of the distance.
Suarez temporarily took second from Hamlin, but after Hamlin got back by to take the second spot, he was in position to take advantage of a Sadler bobble on the second-to-last lap. Hamlin was unsuccessful, though, and Sadler maintained position to claim his second win of the 2016 season.
Erik Jones finished sixth, Blaney was seventh, Jeremy Clements eighth, Brandon Jones ninth and Ryan Preece rounded out the top-10.
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