Sunday, February 21, 2016

Denny Hamlin Wins Closest Daytona 500

The 58th Daytona 500 was won by Denny Hamlin by 0.011 seconds over Martin Truex, Jr., the closest Daytona 500 finish. Kyle Busch made it a Toyota 1-2-3. It is Toyota's first Daytona 500 victory and Toyota is the first foreign manufacture to win the race.

Hamlin was fourth on the final lap before making a move on the back straightaway that gave him a run on the leaders entering turns three. Matt Kenseth was leading and attempted to block his teammate but Hamlin made an over-under move on Kenseth and left Kenseth hung out to dry on the outside. Hamlin was side-by-side with Truex, Jr. from the exit of turn four and the Virginian held off the New Jerseyan by 0.011 seconds, tied for 13th closest in NASCAR Cup history.

Hamlin led a race-high 95 laps. It is Joe Gibbs Racing's second Daytona 500 victory. Joe Gibbs Racing won the 1993 race with Dale Jarrett.

Kevin Harvick finished fourth. Carl Edwards made it four Toyota in the top five. Edwards suffered right front damage after an accident on lap 57 with Trevor Bayne after Brian Vickers spun in front of them. Last year's Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano was the top Ford in sixth.

Kyle Larson finished seventh with Regan Smith in eighth. This was Larson's first top ten finish in the Daytona 500 while it was Smith's third top ten in the race. Austin Dillon matched his best Daytona 500 finish by coming home in ninth. Dillon finished ninth after starting from pole position in 2014. Kurt Busch rounded out the top ten. It is Kurt Busch's first top ten in the Daytona 500 since finishing 5th in 2011 while driving for Team Penske.

Ryan Newman finished 11th while Aric Almirola came home in 12th. Kasey Kahne was the top Hendrick Motorsports driver in 13th. Kenseth fell to 14th after being hung out to dry on the final lap. Kenseth had led the 40 laps prior to the final lap, good enough for second most in the race. Michael McDowell was the top finishing open entry in 15th.

Jimmie Johnson finished 16th with Jamie McMurray in 17th. Paul Menard, Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top twenty. A.J. Allmendinger finished 21st but ran the fastest lap in there race. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 22nd ahead of Landon Cassil and Brian Scott. Ty Dillon finished 25th.

Brian Vickers finished 26th ahead of Michael Annett. Trevor Bayne finished 28th. Since winning the Daytona 500 in 2011, this is only the second time Bayne has finished better than 30th in the Daytona 500. David Ragan finished 29th ahead of his BK Racing teammate Michael Waltrip. Bobby Labonte was the final car on the lead lap as he finished 31st in his 24th Daytona 500 start.

Casey Mears and Clint Bowyer each finished one lap down. Greg Biffle was two laps down. Danica Patrick, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and pole-sitter Chase Elliott all had their races hampered by accidents. Robert Richardson, Jr. finished 38th. Chris Buescher and Matt DiBenedetto both retired after a lap 92 accident. Both Buescher and DiBenedetto were making their Daytona 500 debuts.

Next week, NASCAR will be in Atlanta.