By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
DARLINGTON, S.C. – It was a worst to first story for Denny Hamlin, until he was disqualified from his victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Following the Sports Clips Haircuts VFW Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway, the No. 18 Sports Clips Toyota Supra was found to be too low in the left front and too high in the right rear.
As a result, Cole Custer assumes the victory, becoming the first driver in Xfinity Series history to win a race without leading a lap. Custer is also just the third (confirmed) driver in NASCAR history to win a race without leading any laps, a feat accomplished most recently by Brett Moffitt when Ross Chastain was disqualified.
Also moving up the finishing order are Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Hamlin becomes the fourth disqualification in the new era of NASCAR following his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bell at Iowa Speedway (for the same reasons) and AJ Allmendinger (twice).
He is the first, however, to be disqualified from a victory in the Xfinity Series since Dale Jarrett at Michigan International Speedway in 1995. Hamlin also gets the dubious honor of becoming the first driver in the history of Darlington to be disqualified.
“I think you’ve got to look at the garage area,” Xfinity Series director Wayne Auton explained. “I think we’ve still got five weeks to go before we get a break, we’re in the middle of a 15-week stretch and the playoffs are coming, and everybody’s pushing everything they can to get that little bit they can to win the race.
“I can’t sit here and say all the dynamics of the 18 car because they have until Monday at 12 o’clock to appeal, but today they were found low.”
After the disqualification, Hamlin is now scored as finishing 38th with one point scored. His fifth-place stage finish in the second stage is erased moving Bell, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Briscoe, Brandon Jones, and Austin Cindric. Noah Gragson moves from 11th in that stage to the 10th and final points scoring position in the stage.
The top-five finishers and Gragson’s ninth-place finishing car were all taken through post-race technical inspection. The other post-race issue was a lugnut found to not be safe and secure on the third JGR car, Jones.
The disqualification alters the playoff grid and awarded Custer five playoff points. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is now just seven playoff points behind Bell with two races remaining in the regular season.
JGR has the option to appeal the disqualification and has until Monday to make that decision.