Darlington Thriller Ends with Brandon Jones Inheriting Lead
(DARLINGTON, SC - SEPT 5, 2020 - RIS) Brandon Jones inherited his third Xfinity Series victory of 2020 when Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain battled to the end of the last twenty laps before a slide job send Hamlin into the outside wall as Chastain ran into the wall and Hamlin's rear bumper, handing the win to Jones with Chastain taking second and Hamlin falling back to fifth.
Justin Haley headed the field under the green and the first caution came out for wrecks on the back straight when Anthony Alfredo moved up into the path of Daniel Hemric, shoving Hemric into the outside wall, then nose first into the inside back straight wall. Several other cars were involved in the Lap One incident, including Ryan Sieg, Kyle Weatherman and Brandon Brown. Alfredo reported to his crew that the car hit the splitter hard and felt like, but didn't blow the right front tire.
Colby Howard earned the first choose penalty of the day by running across the orange square marking the spot where he should have been on one side of it or the other before the restart.
The restart had Briscoe and Haley on the front row, followed by Chastain and Cindric. Haley spun his tires at the green flag and fell back, allowing Chastain and Briscoe to battle until Chastain pulled away to a lead of almost a half second in just a handful of laps. Cindric then moved around Briscoe into second and started cutting slightly into Chastain's lead before the competition caution on lap 21.
Haley and Chastain headed the restart, with Cindric tailing Haley but Denny Hamlin had found his way to seventh after starting in past place in a Cale Yarbrough throwback paint scheme. Just a few laps later, he was in fourth, then in third and closing on Haley for second place before taking the lead on lap 33.
Haley ran into Justin Allgaier, causing significant damage to the front of the No, 11 car, while Hamlin went on to take his first Xfinity Series stage win of the 2020 season, followed by Chastain, Cindric, Briscoe and Gragson in the top five positions.
Briscoe headed Jones, Hamlin, Cindric and Chastain after the restart, while Allgaier pitted for tires after almost shredding one earlier, then a few laps later, he pulled into the garage for the crew to check out. They found a problem with the right front upper control arm which caused severe tire wear and ride height problems. Hamlin moved around Briscoe for the stage lead with seven laps left to the second stage. Approaching the green and white checkered flag to end the stage, Gragson got loose moving to the inside of Chastain and spun out, bringing out a yellow one lap before the stage's end. Dexter Bean had a 'sympathy spin' behind him but neither car hit the wall and both continued to the stage end with Hamlin taking the stage again.
Briscoe and Chastain led the pack to the restart with Chastain trying to move inside for the lead but Briscoe pulling out to the lead.
Seven laps into the final stage, Jeremy Clements coasted to a halt on the front straight to bring out another caution. A varied lot of pit strategies saw some teams pit for tires while others stayed out but David Starr slid along the wall and to a halt on the apron, causing another caution with only four laps run.
Briscoe and Alfredo both spun with 30 to go because of fluid from Brett Moffitt's No, 02. Briscoe was leading at the time he spun. Moffitt's leak apparently started when he skidded into the wall. The cleanup turned out so extensive that NASCAR called for a red flag to allow for safer conditions for the track emergency workers. At the restart, Brandon Brown, driving a Janet Guthrie throwback car, earned the free pass from one lap down. "You can't control stuff like that, but, overall, we were in contention to win," Briscoe explained. "I felt like we could have beat Denny, so that's something to hang our head high on. Him and Harvick are the guys dominating the Cup Series, so I'm proud to be able to run with those guys. I just hate that the oil situation happened, but you can't control that and it was something that was out of our hands."
Briscoe was unaware of the fluid being dumped by Moffitt: "No, I had no idea. I was kind of saving my tires and just went into turn one on that lap and the next thing I knew I was spinning out instantly. I definitely hit something. I guess it was oil, but I had no idea any of that was going on or there was even an issue on the racetrack."
"I think for us the biggest thing is just trying to make sure we have a five-point playoff point lead over the 22. More than likely he's gonna win the regular season at this point and if we can be five or six ahead that puts us tied or one up going into the playoffs, so I think that's probably the biggest goal right now is just trying to make sure we can do that. That obviously requires winning stages and races. I felt like we had a good opportunity to do that today, but it just didn't work out."
Chastain held onto the lead, ahead of Burton and Sieg. Hamlin attempted an inside pass entering Turn One but Chastain held off Hamlin's charge until Hamlin skidded along the wall just before Chastain gained a 'Darlington Stripe' on his right rear with ten laps left. Hamlin tapped Chastain's rear bumper and both cars wobbled, then with two to go, Hamlin and Chastain touched, slipped and allowed Brandon Jones around for the win while Hamlin slid against the wall and dropped back to fifth place behind Chastain, Sieg and Herbst.
"I mean, look at the right side of this thing. I think everybody's looks like this and that is what is so much fun about this track," Jones said after the race. "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.
"I've been in this position actually a few times. 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.
" You see us, I think, every single weekend. We have some bad races, but we rally back, and we don't give up and get back in victory lane, where we need to be."
"I just carried a little too much speed into [Turn] Three," explained Hamlin." I tried to race him really clean."
Austin Cindric, five-time winner this season commented: "I think the biggest positives we can take away as a group for our No. 22 MoneyLion Ford Mustang was we learned a lot. We tried something new and tried to fix the problems with something new and I think we learned more of what not to do today and how to be better in trying to apply it later on. Without being overly specific, I feel like we learned those things. We didn’t have a very good day execution-wise. We had to come back in and tighten up some lugnuts there after everyone had made their final pit stops, so that was obviously lost all of our track position and we struggled to make our way back up. I didn’t think we were really well-suited for the end of the race there and probably didn't do myself any favors with some of the damage I got throughout the day, but, overall, we learned some things and tried some things. We were aggressive with the things that we tried today, so I think that's something to be proud of -- that we're in that kind of a position and have that kind of confidence in ourselves, but I think it's just as important to be able to go back and rebound next week at Richmond."
Unofficial Results: Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200, Darlington Raceway, 1.366 mile
Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, St1, St2, Tms Led, Laps Led, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1) 8, Brandon Jones, No. 19 Toyota, 147, 6, 2, 1, 2, 5, 54, Running
2) 5, Ross Chastain, No. 10 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet, 147, 2, 4, 6, 43, , 51, Running
3) 11, Ryan Sieg, No. 39 CMRRoofing.com Chevrolet, 147, 9, 6, 1, 9, , 41, Running
4) 6, Riley Herbst #, No. 18 Monster Energy Toyota, 147, , 10, , , , 34, Running
5) 37, Denny Hamlin(i), No. 54 SportClips Toyota, 147, 1, 1, 3, 31, , 0, Running
6) 3, Harrison Burton #, No. 20 DEX Imaging Toyota, 147, , 5, , , , 37, Running
7) 14, Noah Gragson, No. 9 Unilever United for America Chevrolet, 147, 5, , , , , 36, Running
8) 7, Michael Annett, No. 1 OREO/Pilot Flying J Chevrolet, 147, 8, 8, , , , 35, Running
9) 26, Austin Hill(i), No. 61 Toyora Tsusho Toyota, 147, , , , , , 0, Running
10) 20, Myatt Snider #, No. 93 The Original Louisiana Hot Sauce Chevrolet, 147, , , , , , 27, Running
11) 2, Chase Briscoe, No. 98 Highpoint.com Ford, 147, 4, 3, 6, 55, , 41, Running
12) 4, Austin Cindric, No. 22 MoneyLion Ford, 147, 3, 7, , , , 37, Running
13) 1, Justin Haley, No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet, 147, , , 1, 7, , 24, Running
14) 27, BJ McLeod, No. 78 Koolbox Ice Toyota, 147, , , , , , 23, Running
15) 9, Josh Williams, No. 92 DGM Racing Chevrolet, 147, , , , , , 22, Running
16) 24, Alex Labbe, No. 36 DGM Racing Chevrolet, 147, , , , , , 21, Running
17) 17, Brandon Brown, No. 68 Costal Carolina University Chevrolet, 147, , , , , , 20, Running
18) 10, Jesse Little #, No. 4 Shriners Hospitals Chevrolet, 147, , , , , , 19, Running
19) 18, Colby Howard, No. 15 Project Hope Foundation Chevrolet, 147, , , , , , 18, Running
20) 23, Chad Finchum, No. 13 CRASHCLAIMSR.US Toyota, 146, , , , , , 17, Running
21) 25, Jeffrey Earnhardt, No. 0 KSDT CPA Chevrolet, 146, , , , , , 16, Running
22) 33, Matt Mills, No. 99 JF Electric Toyota, 146, , , , , , 15, Running
23) 28, Joe Graf Jr #, No. 08 Bucked Up Energy Chevrolet, 146, , , , , , 14, Running
24) 30, Bayley Currey(i), No. 74 Mutt and Jeff Porkskins Inc. Chevrolet, 146, , , , , , 0, Running
25) 29, Ryan Vargas, No. 6 Cranio Care Bears Chevrolet, 146, , , , , , 12, Running
26) 19, Tommy Joe Martins, No. 44 Gilreath Farms Red Angus Chevrolet, 145, 7, , , , , 15, Running
27) 12, Anthony Alfredo, No. 21 Blue Otter Polarized Chevrolet, 145, , , , , , 10, Running
28) 32, Vinnie Miller, No. 5 Koolbox Ice Toyota, 145, , , , , , 9, Running
29) 34, Kody Vanderwal #, No. 52 The Rolling Home Show with Bill Malone , 145, , , , , , 8, Running
30) 35, Dexter Bean, No. 90 Sleep Well Chevrolet, 145, , , , , , 7, Running
31) 16, Justin Allgaier, No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet, 135, 10, , , , , 7, Running
32) 13, Jeremy Clements, No. 51 Repairables.com Chevrolet, 129, , 9, , , , 7, Running
33) 21, Brett Moffitt(i), No. 02 Knockaround Chevrolet, 118, , , , , , 0, Oil Leak
34) 22, David Starr, No. 07 Richardson Service 1991 Inc. Chevrolet, 108, , , , , , 3, Accident
35) 36, Stephen Leicht, No. 66 JANIKING Toyota, 11, , , , , , 2, Suspension
36) 31, Kyle Weatherman, No. 47 Back The Blue Chevrolet, 5, , , , , , 1, Accident
37) 15, Daniel Hemric, No. 8 Poppy Bank Chevrolet, 2, , , , , , 1, Accident
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie
Race Length: 147 laps, 200.802 miles
Time of Race: 1 hr, 58 min, 32 sec
Average Speed: 101.643 mph
Margin of Victory: 3.363 sec
Stage 1 Top 10: 54, 10, 22, 98, 9, 19, 44, 1, 39, 7
Stage 2 Top 10: 54, 19, 98, 10, 20, 39, 22, 1, 51, 18
Comments: Brandon Jones won the Sports Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway, his fourth NASCAR Xfinity Series victory.
Caution Flags: 7 for 37 laps;
Laps: 3-8 (No. 8, 21, 39, 68 Incident Backstretch [None]);
22-25 (Competition Caution );
47-51 (Stage 1 Conclusion );
91-95 (No. 9, 10, 90 Incident Turn 3 / Stage 2 Conclusion );
103-106 (No. 51 Stopped on Backstretch );
111-115 (No. 07 Incident Turn 4 );
119-126 (No. 98, 21 Incident Turn 1 [Red Flag - 8:59] ).
Lead Changes: 17 among 6 drivers;
J. Haley 1-7;
C. Briscoe 8-12;
R. Chastain 13-32;
D. Hamlin(i) 33-47;
R. Chastain 48;
C. Briscoe 49-50;
R. Chastain 51;
C. Briscoe 52-82;
D. Hamlin(i) 83-91;
C. Briscoe 92-94;
R. Chastain 95;
C. Briscoe 96-104;
D. Hamlin(i) 105-111;
R. Chastain 112;
C. Briscoe 113-117;
R. Sieg 118-126;
R. Chastain 127-145;
B. Jones 146-147.
Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.