Denny Hamlin Makes Last Lap, Last Turn Pass to Win Closest XFINITY Series Finish Ever at Michigan

William Byron was five laps away from his first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory of his young career. Then, a caution came out with five laps-to-go for fellow rookie Matt Tifft spinning his No. 19 Toyota on the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway oval.

Instead of cruising to his first win, he’d have to endure a final restart.

Byron, got a good jump and was holding off a furious charge from Denny Hamlin. When Hamlin, got to his door, it allowed a frantic battle on the backstretch on the final lap. That allowed Elliott Sadler to close in too. 

Byron, held Hamlin off in Turn 3, but Hamlin got a great run in the corner and shot to the inside exiting Turn 4 coming to the checkered flag. His No. 20 Toyota was too much for Byron’s No. 9 Chevrolet, beating him by just 0.012-seconds in Saturday’s Irish Hills 250.

That was the closest XFINITY Series finish ever at Michigan.

For Hamlin, it was vindication for a caution flag that flew for debris with 14 to go. He was well in position to cruise to an easy victory on Saturday afternoon in Michigan. But, that yellow bunched up the field. On the restart with nine to go, Byron and Brad Keselowski got by him.

Hamlin, eventually got by Keselowski for second again, but Byron was gone. Then, that agonizing caution for the youngster came.

Hamlin, would earn his 16th career XFINITY Series win, tying Jeff Green and Joe Nemechek for 16th on the all-time wins list. It was also his 47th career NASCAR victory.

The win also gives us eight straight years with a different winner, as when Brad Keselowski won in 2010, we’ve had a different winner every year since. Hamlin’s win marks the third straight season that a Joe Gibbs Racing car went to victory lane at MIS, with Kyle Busch winning in 2015 and Daniel Suarez last year.

But, today was Hamlin’s second win at MIS, he won in 2007 also, tying him with Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Todd Bodine, Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Mark Martin and Paul Menard who’ve each won twice in the Irish Hills too.

For Byron, it was a massive heartbreak. Not only would this have been his first win, he would have beat the team he left too. Byron, was a Toyota developmental driver within the JGR organization. But, HMS came calling for him to move up the ranks to an XFINITY Series ride with them.

He was first, with a JGR car second on the final lap. Not only did he lose in that fashion, he lost in record fashion too by just 0.012-seconds.

Ouch.

But, Byron did earn his third top five of the season (4th at Phoenix, 5th at Fontana) and just his second top 10 finish in the last eight races. He’d lead eight laps this afternoon.

Sadler, finished just 0.191-seconds back himself in his No. 1 Chevrolet, for his third straight top 10 result and sixth top seven in his last seven starts. He led 14 laps today and reinherits the points lead as a result.

Keselowski, who led a race-high 54 of the 125 laps in his No. 22 Ford on Saturday came home fourth while Kyle Busch rebounded from a first turn incident with Keselowski on the start to come away with a fifth place run in his No. 18 Toyota.

After Busch, the pole sitter today too, took the green flag, he and Keselowski made contact entering Turn 1, shooting his Toyota right side first into the wall and spinning into the Turn 1 grass. They’d made eight pit stops overall to get it fixed, and it worked for a top five, his third in four tries this season.

The series heads to Iowa next weekend.

Irish Hills 250 Results:

  1. 20 Hamlin
  2.  9 Byron R
  3.  1 Sadler
  4. 22 Keselowski
  5. 18 Busch
  6.  3 T. Dillon
  7.  2 Menard
  8. 16 Reed
  9. 33 B. Jones
  10. 00 Custer R
  11. 48 Poole
  12. 21 Hemric R
  13. 42 Reddick R
  14. 62 Gaughan
  15. 39 Sieg
  16.  7 Allgaier
  17. 11 Koch
  18. 23 Gallagher R
  19.  4 Chastain
  20. 28 Armstrong
  21. 99 Starr
  22. 01 Rhodes
  23. 51 Clements
  24. 24 Lupton
  25. 52 Gase
  26. 19 Tifft R
  27. 40 Bilicki
  28. 78 Martins
  29.  0 Smithley
  30.  8 McLeod
  31. 07 Forrister R
  32. 74 Harmon
  33. 90 Brown
  34. 92 Williams OUT
  35. 93 Green OUT
  36. 96 Kennedy OUT
  37.  5 Annett OUT
  38. 14 Yeley OUT
  39. 13 Hill OUT
  40. 89 Shepherd

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