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Hamlin Wins Closest Daytona 500 In History

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, February 21 2016
Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin celebrates his victory Sunday in the Daytona 500. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin celebrates his victory Sunday in the Daytona 500. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

Denny Hamlin hit the finish line inches ahead of Martin Truex Jr. to win Sunday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

The margin of victory – .01 seconds –was the closest in the history of NASCAR’s most important race.

sprint-logo-08The victory was the first in a 500 for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver and the 27th of his career. It came two months after Hamlin had knee surgery and it came after he led a race-best 95 of 200 laps.

It capped a slam-bang final lap which saw him move from fourth to first with a push from Kevin Harvick and a couple of nifty moves out of the final turn.

“I don’t know where that came from,” he said of the drag race to the checkered flag between him, Truex and Matt Kenseth. “I don’t know what happened. I can’t even figure out what I did. But it all just came together.”

“He just side drafted me,” Truex, who had the low line and a couple-inch lead 10 or so feet from the finish line, said. “I probably should have run him up (the track) a little more but I thought we were close enough that I could keep that foot or so (lead), but I couldn’t.”

Kyle Busch, Hamlin’s teammate, finished third, Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing fourth and Carl
Edwards of JGR fifth.

“Denny took my idea and did it sooner than I did,” Busch said.

Pole sitter Chase Elliott’s wonderful run through Speedweeks ended 19 laps in when he spun and plowed through the infield grass on the front straight. The front end of his Hendrick Chevy was bashed

Matt Kenseth was nudged aside by Denny Hamling during the last lap of the Daytona 500 on Sunday.  (RacinToday/HHP Photo by Alan Marler)

Matt Kenseth was nudged aside by Denny Hamling during the last lap of the Daytona 500 on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP Photo by Alan Marler)

in and steam from a fractured radiator billowed from the hood. Elliott, who won the pole and then the Saturday XFINITY Series race and led the first four laps of the 500, had his car towed to the garages.\

“I’m not sure, just got turned around there off of (Turn) Four,” Elliott said when asked what happened. “Got in the middle and got loose. Lost it and spun out. I hate it for everybody at less than 20 laps in and have something dumb like that happen. I apologize to my guys. We will try and get back out there I guess and make some laps.”

It was Dale Earnhardt Jr. who took the lead from Elliott on Lap 4. He held it for 15 laps before Hamlin took over.

By Lap 40, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas had three of the top four spots in the field as Hamlin was first, Kyle Busch second and Kenseth fourth. Running third was the Furniture Row Toyota of Truex Jr.

On Lap 56, Brian Vickers, subbing for injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Chevrolet, spun coming out of Turn 4. Vickers’ car didn’t suffer damage but that of Edwards, who suffered ripple effect and hit the outside wall, suffered big damage – but, it turned out, not fatal damage – to his JGR Toyota.

Jimmie Johnson took the lead on the Lap 62 restart as he came out of the pits first after taking just two tires.

Johnson and Hamlin then spent the next 10 laps side by side until broke free and took a clear-cut lead.

On Lap 78, Busch blew past Johnson on the low side and took his first lead. Following behind Busch were teammates Kenseth and Hamlin. Johnson, who had moved to the center lane, dropped backward and out of the top 10 on his two old tires.

On Lap 92, a scary wreck involving 500 first-timers James Buescher and Matt DiBenedetto brought out the third caution of the day.

“I really saw nothing,” Buescher, who won the XFINITY Series championship last year, said. “Matt was in there with us and he apologized, and I appreciate that. I just hate it for Love’s Travel Stops coming on board for our first Daytona 500, and to leave it like this is not ideal by any means.  We had a fast race car. I was having a blast out there. The handling was tough. We were fighting loose-in, loose-off, got tight on that last run, but it was a blast. I was having so much fun I hate that we’re standing here right now.”

Hamlin was first out of the pits and led the field on the Lap 100 restart. Hamlin stayed in the low line. Line up behind him were Truex second and Busch third. With 50 laps to go that was still the running order.

With 45 laps to go, the first green flag stops of the day began.

When the pitting cycled through, Kenseth had the lead, Truex as second and Busch third. Hamlin had dropped to seventh, but with four fresh tires.

With 30 laps to go, Earnhardt snapped loose coming out of Turn 4, shot down the tack and slammed an inside wall nose first. Earnhardt, who had led 15 laps early and was running in the top five at the time of this wreck, and his car were done for the day.

“Caught me by surprise there,” he said. “I was trying to side-draft a guy beside me and boy, it pinned the right front. All the downforce there.  We have been working on the balance all day. That was our problem. We really underestimated how important handling was going to be today. We’ve had a rocket all week, but it was in single car runs and at the night races, the car has handled great. We gotta do a little more drafting I think there the next time we come back and be ready for the balance and the things they threw at us today. We were starting to move forward and get aggressive and I just lost it.

“I just got loose. I’ve been really working on the balance of the car. I’ve been pushing real bad all day, especially off of Turn 4. We just got it really free.  We took two tires there and just didn’t have overall grip I was hoping for. I was aggressive trying to side draft guys and move forward. We were making some ground on the leaders a little bit so that was looking pretty good because the outside line really hadn’t been doing anything all day. Just busted my butt there. Driver mistake.”

The race restarted with 25 laps to go and Kenseth out front and clinging to the yellow line at the bottom of the track. Behind him, things began heating up as two lines became three.

With 16 laps to go, Danica Patrick tried to slam the door on Greg Biffle and the two made contact. Out came the caution flag.

“It was a pretty rough day for us,” Biffle said. “We got a flat trying to make the outside groove push to the front and couldn’t get our lap back and then later the 10 came across our nose there. It was unfortunate but it happens. I don’t know if she was trying to block me or didn’t know I was there but it happens. Tough day for sure. I am proud of my guys for all their work this week. We had a pretty good week minus these issues today.”

On the restart with 12 laps to go, leader Kenseth chose the outside line but then immediately dropped to the bottom after taking the green.

With 10 to go, the running order was Kenseth, Truex and Busch. Logan led the outside line with Austin Dillon behind him.

With two to go, Kenseth, Truex, Busch and Hamlin was the running order on the low line. The high line was making no progress.

In Turn 3 on the final lap, Hamlin jumped out of line and went high. From there he caught Kenseth, who went high to block. Hamlin then went under Keneseth and pushed Kenseth – who went low to block – out of the way.

“They don’t get anymore crushing than that,” Kenseth said.

Out of Turn 4, Hamlin and Truex banged doors all the way to the finish line.

I mean,” Hamlin said, “I just remember pulling up in front of the 4 (Harvick) and him giving me a push and not letting off when he was pushing and ultimately that was the push to the victory for us. I know we got to the outside of the 18 (Kyle Busch), the 78 (Truex Jr.) and then the 20 (Kenseth) came up to block high and I saw that the middle was going to be the only way I could get around both of them and we cleared the 20 and drag raced with the 78.

Hamlin hit the finish line inches ahead of Truex to get his win.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Daytona 500

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Sunday, February 21, 2016

  1. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200
  2. (28) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 200
  3. (4) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200
  4. (9) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 200
  5. (10) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 200
  6. (5) Joey Logano, Ford, 200
  7. (14) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200
  8. (27) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 200
  9. (21) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200
  10. (8) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 200
  11. (38) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 200
  12. (34) Aric Almirola, Ford, 200
  13. (13) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 200
  14. (2) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 200
  15. (39) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 200
  16. (26) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 200
  17. (6) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 200
  18. (37) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 200
  19. (7) Ryan Blaney #, Ford, 200
  20. (25) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200
  21. (30) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 200
  22. (19) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 200
  23. (24) Landon Cassill, Ford, 200
  24. (35) Brian Scott #, Ford, 200
  25. (12) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 200
  26. (18) Brian Vickers, Chevrolet, 200
  27. (22) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 200
  28. (23) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 200
  29. (29) David Ragan, Toyota, 200
  30. (36) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 200
  31. (33) Bobby Labonte, Ford, 200
  32. (32) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 199
  33. (31) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 199
  34. (15) Greg Biffle, Ford, 198
  35. (16) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, Accident, 184
  36. (3) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 169
  37. (1) Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 160
  38. (40) Robert Richardson Jr., Toyota, Engine, 135
  39. (17) Chris Buescher #, Ford, Accident, 91
  40. (20) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, Accident, 91

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  157.549 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 10 Mins, 25 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.010 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  6 for 31 laps.

Lead Changes:  20 among 15 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   C. Elliott # 1-3; D. Earnhardt Jr. 4-17; Kyle Busch 18-21; D. Earnhardt Jr. 22; R. Newman 23; D. Hamlin 24-57; M. Truex Jr. 58; B. Labonte 59; J. Johnson 60-77; Kyle Busch 78-92; D. Ragan 93; M. Waltrip 94; D. Hamlin 95-119; M. Truex Jr. 120; D. Hamlin 121-155; A. Dillon 156; B. Keselowski 157; M. Annett 158; B. Scott # 159; M. Kenseth 160-199; D. Hamlin 200;.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  D. Hamlin 4 times for 95 laps; M. Kenseth 1 time for 40 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 19 laps; J. Johnson 1 time for 18 laps; D. Earnhardt Jr. 2 times for 15 laps; C. Elliott # 1 time for 3 laps; M. Truex Jr. 2 times for 2 laps; M. Waltrip 1 time for 1 lap; A. Dillon 1 time for 1 lap; R. Newman 1 time for 1 lap; B. Labonte 1 time for 1 lap; B. Scott # 1 time for 1 lap; M. Annett 1 time for 1 lap; B. Keselowski 1 time for 1 lap; D. Ragan 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: D. Hamlin – 45; M. Truex Jr. – 40; Kyle Busch – 39; K. Harvick – 37; C. Edwards – 36; J. Logano – 35; K. Larson – 34; R. Smith – 33; A. Dillon – 33; Kurt Busch – 31; R. Newman – 31; A. Almirola – 29; K. Kahne – 28; M. Kenseth – 28; M. Mcdowell – 26; J. Johnson – 26.

 

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, February 21 2016
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