CONCORD, N.C. — Audio and story by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images for NASCAR photo —
After an uncontrolled tire penalty with 40 laps to go sent Denny Hamlin to the tail end of the field and seemingly out of contention, the Sprint Cup veteran made a statement that he can never be counted out in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver made a furious rally in the closing stages of Saturday’s Hisense 4K TV 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway — aided by a late caution that set him up on four fresh tires on an overtime restart — ultimately climbing from sixth on the two lap sprint, passing Joey Logano exiting turn two on the final lap and holding off Austin Dillon coming back to the checkered flag for his first XFINITY win of the season.
Hamlin’s comeback began from 16th after the penalty, and he took just seven laps to move inside the top 10. It was just nine more circuits before he was sixth, by way of a daring three-wide maneuver in heavy traffic.
From there, the challenges got tougher as ahead of him, Joey Logano led Kyle Larson in a top-and-bottom war for the lead and the win. Logano was committed to the bottom of the race track as Larson chipped away and chipped away on the high side, with the two separated by three car lengths or less lap after lap as time ticked away.
As Hamlin found his way to fourth at 12 to go, Larson became the man on a mission as he soared towards the lead. A three-wide split of Dakoda Armstrong provided the loss of momentum for Logano that the Chip Ganassi Racing driver needed in order to capitalize, dropping the Team Penske No. 22 to second as Larson assumed command with six circuits remaining.
But the battle was far from over.
Blown tires for Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones ultimately led to the eighth and final caution flag of the race with two laps to go, when Jones slammed the outside wall in turns three and four, ending his day and forcing the leaders and their crews to make a race-deciding call: to take tires or not?