LOUDON, N.H. – To Denny Hamlin, it was just hard short-track racing for the win.
To runner-up Austin Dillon, it was unnecessarily aggressive driving that led to Hamlin’s victory in the Lakes Region 200 NASCAR XFINITY Series race on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
On Lap 179 of 200 at the Magic Mile, Hamlin drove his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to the inside of Dillon’s No. 33 Chevrolet. Hamlin slid up the track into Dillon, broke the No. 33’s momentum and took the lead.
Eventual third- and fourth-place finishers Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch also passed Dillon, who later regained the positions he lost to Keselowski and Busch but ran out of time in his pursuit of Hamlin.
Earlier in the race Hamlin had two similar incidents with Busch, his teammate. And though Busch didn’t appear particularly annoyed with Hamlin’s tactics, Dillon was incensed.
“He got to me, and I figured he was going to race, but he never even wanted to,” Dillon said. “He wrecked his teammate and then proceeded to try and wreck me, and if I had gotten back to him, it would have happened to him.”
Hamlin wrote off the contact to all-out racing at a one-mile flat track.
“The bottom line is, if you don’t have any air on the outside of you, you just can’t hold it,” Hamlin said. “There was an example of that about three times today … I want to thank ‘Wheels’ (crew chief Mike Wheeler) for giving me the dominant car. We had the best car, and just, wow, what a day.”
In Hamlin’s view, Dillon wasn’t blameless either.
“Well, he jumped the restart, for one,” Hamlin said. “I’m the control car, but that’s fine. Eventually I was going to get back around him anyway. Same thing—I was a fender ahead, and he drove in there knowing that he was going to have to hold me low to hold the position, and I just washed up into him.
“But that’s two guys on a short track racing for the win.”
Dillon clearly had a different opinion.
“What is racing, if you can’t race side-by-side for more than a corner?” Dillon asked rhetorically. “He never even went through a corner with me, the whole race. He didn’t want to. He just moved me. Missed the corner. Wrecked me.
“I’m fine with racing rough. I promise you, I can do it to anybody. But if we’re going to race like that, I need to know before you get to the first corner. Give me a corner at least.”
Dillon indicated there might be some payback in the offing but wouldn’t reveal how or when.
“I’m not going to talk about it,” Dillon said. “He won’t be ready.”
Hamlin’s reply? “We’ve both got race cars.”
Dillon got the lead on Lap 175 moments after a restart following the sixth and final caution for Brian Scott’s blown engine.
Both Hamlin and Dillon had stayed out on old tires under the previous yellow, but Keselowski came to pit road for fresh rubber on Lap 142. As it turned out, the new tires made little difference.
“It was the right call and probably got us to third, instead of fourth or fifth,” Keselowski said. “We just weren’t as fast as the 33 and 20 were. … We just weren’t fast enough this weekend.”
Rookie Daniel Suarez ran fifth, followed by Ty Dillon, Regan Smith, Darrell Wallace Jr., Chase Elliott and Brennan Poole. Series leader Chris Buescher finished 14th, one lap down, and saw his lead in the standings shrink to 31 points over second-place Elliott.
NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – Lakes Region 200
(1) Denny Hamlin(i), Toyota, 200, $52101.
(6) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 200, $32261.
(4) Brad Keselowski(i), Ford, 200, $27038.
(2) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 200, $26186.
(3) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 200, $27768.
(7) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200, $23909.
(8) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 200, $23253.
(11) Darrell Wallace Jr. #, Ford, 200, $24948.
(9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200, $23720.
(13) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 200, $23494.
(10) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 200, $22467.
(14) Ben Rhodes, Chevrolet, 199, $22341.
(21) Ryan Reed, Ford, 199, $22188.
(20) Chris Buescher, Ford, 199, $21935.
(19) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 199, $22209.
(15) Dakoda Armstrong, Ford, 199, $21681.
(17) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 199, $21755.
(28) Eric McClure, Toyota, 198, $21402.
(23) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 198, $21352.
(16) Blake Koch, Toyota, 198, $21802.
(25) Cale Conley #, Toyota, 198, $21200.
(24) David Starr, Toyota, 198, $21144.
(18) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 198, $21093.
(26) Dylan Lupton, Chevrolet, 198, $21028.
(27) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 197, $21142.
(31) Peyton Sellers #, Chevrolet, 195, $20957.
(36) Derek White, Dodge, 195, $20921.
(33) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, Clutch, 174, $20885.
(5) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, Engine, 165, $20850.
(35) Todd Peck(i), Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 156, $21115.
(37) Mike Harmon, Dodge, Brakes, 111, $20779.
(38) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, Brakes, 98, $14744.
(29) Matt Wallace, Toyota, Vibration, 84, $14723.
(12) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, Brakes, 46, $20703.
(40) Matt Frahm, Chevrolet, Brakes, 42, $14651.
(34) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Brakes, 40, $13234.
(22) Ross Chastain #, Chevrolet, Accident, 36, $18234.
(39) Josh Reaume #, Dodge, Brakes, 24, $11234.
(32) Harrison Rhodes #, Chevrolet, Engine, 16, $16234.
(30) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 3, $9234.
Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service
Image: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images