Elliott Sadler picked up his second victory of the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series season Saturday at Darlington Raceway, holding off Denny Hamlin to win the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200.
The 41-year-old veteran led 75 of the 147 laps, which represented his best single-race performance by far over the past two seasons, according to Xfinity Racing:
Here is a look at how the top 10 shook out Saturday, with full results for all 40 cars available at NASCAR.com:
|VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 Results|
According to Kenny Bruce of NASCAR.com, it was announced Friday that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would miss the remainder of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series season due to concussion-like symptoms, but that didn't dampen his enthusiasm to see JR Motorsports in Victory Lane:
Sadler entered Darlington with a comfortable 47-point lead over Daniel Suarez for first place in the Xfinity Series standings, and as seen in the following rundown of the standings after Saturday's event, he managed to extend his advantage:
|NASCAR Xfinity Series Standings Thru Darlington|
|9||Darrell Wallace Jr.||630||-185||0|
After Paul Menard led the first six laps of the race, Sadler took over, leading 39 of the next 41.
While Sadler was seemingly in cruise control, Hamlin stepped up to offer some resistance with a smooth pass on Lap 48, as seen in this vine courtesy of NASCAR Xfinity:
No active Sprint Cup driver has a better average result at Darlington than Hamlin, and that showed once he got into clean air, as he went on to dominate and lead the next 43 laps.
Fresh off the first Sprint Cup victory of his career, a confident Kyle Larson chased him down on the 91st lap, though, with this impressive, high-side pass:
Larson's time up front lasted a mere 12 laps, as he spun out near pit road and surrendered the lead:
That sequence also led to another contender in Ryan Blaney losing track position when Carl Long hit him.
Larson managed to bounce back with a fourth-place finish, but the miscue cost him an opportunity to vie for the win.
That led to Hamlin regaining the lead for a short period of time, but Sadler once again charged into first place with this pass:
Hamlin continued to apply pressure from the second position, but it was to no avail, as Sadler led the final 36 laps to take the checkered flag.
It marked the first win of Sadler's career at Darlington, and that showed in his celebration:
Sadler was already locked into the inaugural Chase for the Xfinity Series championship, but a second victory improved his positioning and gave him a ton of momentum.
He went head-to-head with several Sprint Cup regulars in Saturday's race and came out on top, which may well make him the championship favorite.
If Sadler can manage to replicate the performance he put forth at Darlington, then a first career Xfinity Series title is very much within reach after several near misses in the past.
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