Denny Hamlin Beats William Byron In Thrilling Photo Finish At Michigan International Speedwayby Camille Jones June 17, 2017
BROOKLYN, Mich.– Denny Hamlin captured the win in Saturday’s Irish Hills 250 at Michigan International Speedway after a thrilling, hard-fought battle with rookie, William Byron.
Hamlin, driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Hisense Toyota, took home the victory in a photo finish at the two-mile speedway. The margin of victory over Byron was only 0.012 seconds, which tied the 2010 Montreal finish for sixth closest in the NASCAR XFINITY Series since electronic scoring has been implemented. The was Hamlin’s first series victory of the season.
“Yeah, he (William Byron) did a great job and really I knew he had a really good car,” Hamlin said. “That last long run that we had, he was about to pass me, so he’s done a great job. Obviously, he’s one of NASCAR’s next future superstars and I wanted to race him clean. I wasn’t 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, so proud of this team. Great that we got a win.”
Byron, driver of the JR Motorsports No. 9 Liberty University Chevrolet got a huge run on the restart with just two laps to go. Hamlin couldn’t make a pass by him, even with a strong push by Keselowski in the Team Penske No. 22 Discount Tire Ford.
Byron, who is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina held onto the lead after taking the white flag, but it was just seconds later when Hamlin, followed by Elliott Sadler in the JR Motorsports No. 1 OneMain Financial Chevrolet, caught up to Byron and rallied to take the lead from the young rookie. Hamlin side-drafted with Byron, racing him clean, but hard, as the final lap quickly came to a close. Hamlin held off Byron by just a nose and stole the win in the closest series finish ever recorded at Michigan International Speedway.
“The key was us getting through 3 and 4 coming to the white and allowed me to draft up to him coming into Turn 1 and I didn’t want to knock him out of the way or anything like that,” Hamlin said. “I just showed my nose low, it got him a little bit loose – just enough for me to get position on the backstretch. Same thing into 3 – we drag raced again – I was able to hang it just a little bit lower than him through 3 and 4 and just drag raced there at the end, but he’s going to have plenty – I’m sure of that.”
While Denny Hamlin, William Byron and Elliott Sadler captured the top-three finishing positions in the event, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch completed the top-five.
Busch’s top-five surprisingly didn’t come easy for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. The race began in an exciting fashion as Kyle Busch started on the pole in his No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota. After taking the green flag in the Irish Hills 250, he blocked Brad Keselowski’s run at trying to take the position from him. Busch ultimately put himself into the outside wall before spinning across the track and into the grass. He sustained damage to his right rear quarter panel, but he pitted and returned to the race.
Keselowski claimed the victory in the 30-lap Stage 1.
Just after the restart to begin Stage 2, Brandon Jones got loose in the middle of the field and began to slide, followed by Ben Kennedy. Michael Annett made contact with Kennedy and both of the drivers suffered the most damage in the impact. The only other caution in Stage 2 was for debris in Turn 4 that also ended the stage. Sadler went on the capture the win in Stage 2.
With five laps to go, Matt Tifft went spinning through the infield grass, bringing out the caution that set up the field for the exciting finish.
Elliott Sadler maintains the lead in the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings by 21 points over Justin Allgaier.
Catch the NASCAR XFINITY Series on track again next weekend in a Saturday night event at Iowa Speedway. The American Ethanol E15 250 Presented by Enogen will be found on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) on Saturday, June 24 at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images