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Darlington winners and losers

Denny Hamlin holds off Kyle Larson down the stretch to win the NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener at Darlington Raceway to advance to the Round of 12.

A look at the winners and losers after a weekend of racing at Darlington Raceway


Denny Hamlin — Finally gets that first victory of the season after holding off Kyle Larson’s last-lap move.

Kyle Larson — Finished second for the third consecutive time at Darlington but made it exciting on the last lap with his video game move.

Ross Chastain — Placed third in his best finish since placing second at Nashville in June.

Noah Gragson — So within a few days of JR Motorsports announcing that Gragson will be back with the Xfinity team in 2022, he snaps a 49-race winless streak. His three career Xfinity wins have come at Daytona, Bristol and Darlington.

Austin Cindric — His third-place finish in Saturday’s Xfinity race moved him within one point of series leader AJ Allmendinger with two races left in the regular season. Said Cindric after the race: “It’s gonna be a fun two weeks.”

Sheldon Creed — Reigning series champ opens playoffs by winning the first two races.


Michael McDowell — His path to the second round was not going to be easy. That was before he crashed on Lap 31 and finished last Sunday.

Kyle Busch — Car didn’t perform well and then crash ended his night. He’s outside the cutoff line after the first playoff race.

Hendrick Motorsports (other than Kyle Larson) — William Byron finished 34th, Chase Elliott was 31st and Alex Bowman placed 26th. Byron and Bowman are outside the transfer spot.