On a green-white-checkered finish, Joey Logano found his way to victory lane, passing Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin for the win in the VFW Sports Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway. It was Logano’s third Nationwide win of the 2012 season.
2011 Nationwide champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. started on the pole, with Hamlin starting in second position. On Lap 2, rookie Ryan Blaney got loose and into the outside wall, while Matt Frahm, Jeremy Clements and Chase Miller wrecked behind him to bring out the caution. The race restarted on Lap 9 with Stenhouse Jr. leading Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, and Elliott Sadler.
Hamlin’s car was very fast and took the lead from Stenhouse Jr. on Lap 20. On Lap 35 the caution flag waved again as Mike Wallace hit the wall when something broke underneath his race car. On Lap 42 teammates Hamlin and Joey Logano staged a drag race for the lead. Logano was able to take the lead for one lap, but Hamlin’s fast car quickly took the lead once again.
Caution waved on Lap 46 when TJ Bell hit the inside wall on the front stretch after a three-wide battle for position with Justin Allgaier and Josh Richards. The three-wide battles continued on the restart as Hamlin, Logano, and Kurt Busch battled for the top position. Hamlin allowed Busch to lead for three laps, but took the position back on Lap 54.
When green-flag pit stops began on Lap 92, Hamlin handed the lead over to Busch to come down pit road. After Busch pitted, Allgaier held the lead for a few laps before he was forced to pit, giving the lead once again to Hamlin.
With 20 laps to go, Busch got into the wall hard after running in the top-five all night, bringing out the caution flag. This allowed leaders to jump down pit road to get four fresh tires for the final laps of the race. With 16 laps to go on the restart, Sadler was the leader over Logano and Hamlin.
With 10 laps to go another caution flew when Brendan Gaughan got into the outside wall. The race attempted to restart with five laps to go, but was brought to an immediate halt with another caution. Sadler, who was the leader, didn’t get a good restart. Logano unintentionally got into Sadler, turning him into the wall. Kasey Kahne, running in the top 10, also received contact from this incident.
The incident relegated an infuriated Sadler to a 24th-place finish and widened the gap between Sadler and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the points lead. Stenhouse now leads Sadler by 23 points and fifth-place finisher series rookie Austin Dillon by 35.
The green-white-checkered finish came down to Joe Gibbs Racing’s Logano and Hamlin battling for the win. Logano took his Toyota to victory lane for his second Nationwide win in a row. Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Sam Hornish Jr., Austin Dillon, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top five, while Brian Scott, Kurt Busch, James Buescher and Cole Whitt finished out the top 10.
Nationwide standings after Darlington:
1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2. Elliott Sadler, -23 points
3. Austin Dillon (R), -35
4. Sam Hornish Jr., -59
5. Cole Whitt (R), -81
6. Michael Annett, -93
7. Justin Allgaier, -104
8. Mike Bliss, -134
9. Joe Nemecheck, -142
10. Danica Patrick, -145
12. Trevor Bayne, -184
13. Brian Scott, -185
15. Jason Bowles (R), -198