Elliott Sadler survives brush with wall to best Denny Hamlin at Darlington

BY foxsports • September 3, 2016

Elliott Sadler won the XFINITY Series race Saturday at Darlington Raceway, holding off Spint Cup driver driver Denny Hamlin despite brushing the wall with two laps to go.

Sadler first passed Hamlin for the lead on Lap 112 of the 147-lap race. Then he held on for the victory -- even after hitting the outside wall and having Hamlin pull right up to his bumper with two to go.

"I've thrown one away before -- and I almost threw this one away," Sadler said. ".. I've been wanting to win here a long time."

It was that kind of day at the difficult Darlington track.

Earlier, Kyle Larson was leading when he spun out coming to pit road, triggering a three-car accident behind him that included another possible contender in fellow Sprint Cup regular Ryan Blaney.

"We made some changes on one run and we drove up to fourth and were coming to pit road and down the whole backstretch, someone, I don’t even know who it was, rear-ended me pretty hard and destroyed our race car," Blaney said. "After that we weren’t very good."

It was the second XFINITY win of the season for Sadler, who remains the series points leader. His other victory this season came at Talladega.

Sadler said in Victory Lane that he dedicated this latest win, the 12th of his career in the series, to car owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. of JR Motorsports. It was announced on Friday that Earnhardt would miss the remainder of the Sprint Cup season as he continues to battle concussion-like symptoms.

"Before I take any questions, this is for Dale Earnhardt Jr.," Sadler said. "Our owner has given me one heck of an opportunity this year, and I know he's going through a lot this year. This is for you, my man."

Sadler won with a special paint scheme on his No. 1 JR Motorsport Chevy that was a nod to NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett, and also because of some studying he did of runner-up Hamlin prior to the race.

"This means the world to me," Sadler said. "If we're being honest, I watched a lot of videotape this week. I called my crew chief and said, 'I've got to change the way I drive this race track. Denny Hamlin, he whipped us here last year.'

"He can run so well up against the wall between (Turns) 3 and 4. So I studied him and had to change the line I was running. I had never run up that high before here."

It enabled Sadler to lead a race-high 75 laps in all. Hamlin led 47 and Larson, who ended up finishing fourth, led 12.

Daniel Suarez finished third and Brennan Poole was fifth. Only two races remain now before the inaugural 12-driver XFINITY Chase for the championship begins at Kentucky Speedway on Sept. 24.