PHOTO: Toyota Racing
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — For the second time in his Monster Energy Cup Series career, Denny Hamlin is celebrating a victory in the Daytona 500.
Hamlin jumped out to the lead as part of NASCAR Overtime, selecting the top lane for the restart, and he held off a hard-charging Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch to take the victory in the 61st annual event. He led a 1-2-3 finish for the Gibbs team.
In the first race since the passing of J.D. Gibbs, the son of team owner Joe Gibbs, it was J.D.’s No. 11, driven by Hamlin, that rolled into the Daytona 500 winner’s circle.
“The whole family, they have just done so much for me over the course of my career. This one is for J.D.,” Hamlin said after climbing from the car. “The legacy still lives on. I’m proud to do this for them.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 18, 2019
Just after the checkered, team owner Joe Gibbs was overcome with emotion.
“I have to tell you, what happened right here, J.D.’s name is on that car, he found Denny,” Joe Gibbs said. “What happened here is emotional for all of us.”
During the first green-white-checkered attempt, Hamlin was second to teammate Busch, and elected to work with Busch on the restart and go for the win. He took the lead during the green flag run, then, when another caution slowed the field, it was Busch who allowed Hamlin to slide down in front of him at the drop of the green flag.
Hamlin never looked back. With Busch second, Erik Jones completed the top three sweep in third. Ford Performance drivers Joey Logano and Michael McDowell rounded out the top five.
“Just trying to work on a run with the No. 11,” Busch said. “It just wasn’t meant to be today. It’s frustrating for sure.”
The finish of the Daytona 500 was filled with destruction. With 13 laps to go, Brad Keselowski went spinning in turn four, drawing the yellow and setting up a dash of just 11 laps to the finish. It was a long way before the checkered flag went in the air.
A major crash with just 10 laps to go ended with the red flag in the air. When Matt DiBendetto got turned after contact with Paul Menard, DiBendetto went spinning in front of the field and collected more than a few top challengers. Defending Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman, David Ragan, Daniel Hemric and many more were involved, ending their chances to win NASCAR’s marquee event.
Menard was in the middle of the start of it, and took full blame for the 22-car mess.
“I hooked the 95 trying to get to his outside,” Menard said. “The 12 had a big run and I jumped up in front of him. I’ll take the blame for that one.”
“Just a racing deal, nothing intentional,” DiBendetto said. “It looks like he was just barely to my right-rear trying to push. It was the most fun speedway I have ever had in my life. People can see what we are doing there.”
THE BIG ONE STRIKES AT DAYTONA.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) February 17, 2019
Ricky Stenhouse got collected in a crash following the green, then with two laps to go, a crash on the backstretch collected Clint Bowyer, William Byron, Chase Elliott and others. From there, the battle was on for the win and Hamlin prevailed.
Ty Dillon was sixth, followed by Kyle Larson in seventh. Former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Ryan Preece finished eighth in his first Daytona 500 and his first start for JTG Daughtery Racing, while Jimmie Johnson and Ross Chastain rounded out the top 10.
“I got taken to school. A lot of learning to be had for sure,” Ryan Preece said. “A good friend of mine told me a goal was to finish and I did just that. What more could you ask for. This is one for the grassroots guys.”
Hamlin’s winning No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry will remain at Daytona International Speedway until the 2020 running of the Daytona 500 in the track museum, continuing a tradition.
Monster Energy Cup Series teams will move to Atlanta Motor Speedway next Sunday, February 24, for the second race of the season.
ORDER OF FINISH: 61st annual Daytona 500
- Denny Hamlin
- Kyle Busch
- Erik Jones
- Joey Logano
- Michael McDowell
- Ty Dillon
- Kyle Larson
- Ryan Preece
- Jimmie Johnson
- Ross Chastain
- Alex Bowman
- Brad Keselowski
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Ryan Newman
- Parker Kligerman
- Austin Dillon
- Chase Elliott
- Corey LaJoie
- B.J. McLeod
- Clint Bowyer
- William Byron
- Jamie McMurray
- Brendan Gaughan
- Landon Cassill
- Kurt Busch
- Kevin Harvick
- Tyler Reddick
- Matt DiBendetto
- Paul Menard
- David Ragan
- Ryan Blaney
- Aric Almirola
- Daniel Suarez
- Daniel Hemric
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Matt Tifft
- Chris Buescher
- Bubba Wallace
- Code Ware
- Casey Mears