Hamlin Edges Byron for Michigan Win

Denny Hamlin

The margin of victory (0.012) is the closest at MIS since the advent of electronic scoring in the XFINITY Series. (Photo: Getty Images)

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BROOKLYN, Mich. - For the second week in a row, a last lap pass decided the finish for the NASCAR XFINITY Series as Denny Hamlin passed rookie William Byron coming to the checkered flag in Saturday’s Irish Hills 250 at Michigan International Speedway.

It’s the first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory of the season for Hamlin, the second of his career at Michigan and the 16th victory in 158 career starts.

Hamlin led three times for 34 laps in Saturday’s race including the final lap after getting by Byron in the thrilling finish. 

“He did a really great job and really I knew he had a really good car,” Hamlin said. “I wanted to race him clean. I was going to turn him around or anything like that, so stayed low below him and got him a little bit loose through 1 and 2 that allowed me to get position and then into Turn 3 we both got sideways.

“He slid up just enough to let me barely get to that left rear and it was just enough to drag race past him."

Byron took the lead from Hamlin on Lap 117 and was out front when the caution flew for a spin involving Matt Tifft on Lap 122. On the final restart, Byron got the quick jump but Hamlin and Elliott Sadler were in close pursuit coming to the white flag.

Hamlin reached the bumper of Byron by Turn 1 of the last lap before pulling side by side down the backstretch and then had position on Byron coming through Turns 3 and 4 to nose out in front before winning the drag race to the checkered flag by 0.012 seconds. 

“The key was getting through 3 and 4 coming to the white and allowed me to draft up to him coming into Turn 1,” Hamlin said. “It was definitely more interesting than I hoped the last 16 laps would be."

The margin of victory is the closest at Michigan since the advent of electronic timing and scoring and it ties the sixth closest margin of victory in series history. 

A disappointed Byron said he got schooled by the veteran Hamlin.

“It was a lot of fun,” Byron said. “Just didn’t quite have enough the last couple laps. I thought we were in really good position into three and he just had enough air down there to get to the side of us and it was a race to the line after that.

“Really proud of our team. To see the JRM cars run this well is really good. Hopefully we can build on it.”

Sadler’s third-place effort was enough to regain the points lead in the XFINITY Series. He now leads teammate Justin Allgaier by 21 markers.

“William did a tremendous job. I probably could have done a better job pushing him,” Sadler said. “All in all we’ll take third and move on to Iowa."

Brad Keselowski and pole sitter Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five finishers.

The race was slowed seven times by caution for 32 laps and five drivers exchanged the lead 10 times. 

The NASCAR XFINITY Series makes the first stop of the season at Iowa Speedway next Saturday night. 

 

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