Published May 11, 2012
After bumping leader Elliott Sadler on a restart with five laps to go, Joey Logano held on through a green-white-checkered finish and won the VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 Nationwide Series race at Darlington Raceway.
Sadler led Denny Hamlin, Logano and Austin Dillon on the restart, but Logano, apparently trying to bump/push Sadler forward, hit him too hard and sent him into a slide and into the wall in front of the field.
That immediately produced another caution and sent the race into overtime.
Hamlin had the lead with two to go, but Logano sprinted forward on the restart and led the final two laps.
Logano admitted on his team radio that he made a mistake and then offered an apology in victory lane.
“I need to apologize,” he said. “I got into Elliott. Obviously, it wasn’t on purpose. We worked so well in Talladega last week. I pushed him ahead on the restart before and got him out front, and I was trying to do that again.”
Sadler, trying to catch Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the point race, was distraught.
“It’s a shame,” Sadler said. “I understand what he was trying to do. You just don’t bump-draft at Darlington. I hate that we’re on the losing end of it. This makes it another uphill battle. We’ve just got to keep fighting.
“It’s just heartbreaking.”
Instead of probably taking the point lead with a strong finish, Sadler fell 23 points behind leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who finished sixth Friday night.
Hamlin finished second and was followed by Brad Keselowski, Sam Hornish Jr. and Austin Dillon. Hornish edged Dillon at the finish line for fourth.
The crowded finish was set up with 21 laps to go when Kurt Busch’s car blew a tire, sending him into the outside wall and sparking the fourth caution of the night.
Busch was running in third place.
That wiped out a solid Hamlin lead and bunched the field for the closing miles.
Sadler was in front for the restart after taking only two tires during the caution period. Hamlin was second.
Brendan Gaughan interrupted the run to the finish by whacking the turn-three wall and bringing out another caution, temporarily stopping Hamlin’s pursuit of Sadler.
Trouble erupted early in the race as 18-year-old Ryan Blaney lost control of his car near the top groove and slammed into the outside wall, slowing traffic behind him and sending Jeremy Clements into a slide and into the inside wall.
On lap 46, the third caution of the night flew after contact between T.J. Bell and Josh Richards bounced Bell into first the outside wall and then the inside barrier.
Danica Patrick finished 12th in her first race at Darlington.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.