Denny Hamlin edged Martin Truex Jr. in a photo finish and won Sunday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
In winning his first 500, Hamlin beat Truex to the finish line by inches – one-hundredth (.01th) of a second, the closest finish in Daytona 500 history. Hamlin won after then-leader Matt Kenseth tried to block him coming off Turn 4 of the last lap. Hamlin then overtook Truex by the slimmest of margins to win it.
It was a dominant day for Joe Gibbs Racing, with Hamlin winning, defending Cup champion Kyle Busch third and Carl Edwards fifth. JGR’s Matt Kenseth, who was the leader coming out of Turn 3 of the last lap before he tried to block Hamlin, was 14th. Truex drives for Furniture Road Racing, which has a technical alliance with JGR.
Chevy-driving Kevin Harvick was fourth.
“I don’t know where that came from or what I did,” said Hamlin, who had offseason knee surgery to repair a torn ACL.
Said Kenseth: “They don’t get much more crushing than that.”
Hamlin also provided Toyota with its first victory in the Daytona 500 and JGR’s first victory in the race since 1993.
Pole-winner Chase Elliott finished 37th and 40 laps down after an accident on Lap 19.
Matt Kenseth appeared to have the race in hand until Denny Hamlin made a run on him on the final turn of the final lap. Kenseth went high to block Hamlin, but nearly lost control of his Toyota. That allowed Hamlin through and he beat Martin Truex Jr. to the finish line by inches.
▪ Truex rebounded from what had been a tough week. He had to start from the rear of the field after wrecking in the Duel qualifying race. On Feb. 14, he wasn’t allowed to qualify after he didn’t fix a roof-flap problem quick enough before making his lap.
▪ Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a strong car for much of the day and led 15 laps early in the race. But he lost control of his No. 88 Chevy on Lap 170 and finished 36th. It was the third spin of the race in Turn 4.
▪ Hamlin became the fifth driver to win both the Sprint Unlimited and Daytona 500 in the same season and the most recent to do so since Dale Jarrett did it in 2000. The others are Bobby Allison (1982), Bill Elliott (1987), Jarrett (1996, 2000) and Jeff Gordon (1997).
They said it
“This is the best. I mean, it’s just the best. It’s the biggest race of my life. The Daytona 500 is the pinnacle of our sport and I’m just proud to be here.” – Hamlin.
“I’m going to have to watch that on the highlight reel for the rest of my life.” – Truex.
“They don’t get much more crushing than that.” – Kenseth.
Where/when: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Sunday, 1 p.m.