Hamlin takes the win in wreck-filled race: Daytona 500 Report

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin took his second Daytona 500 win in what proved to be a crash-strewn and highly attritional race. Hamlin was one of only three drivers to not be involved in any incidents at all, with the other two drivers being second-place finisher Kyle Busch and Ross Chastain, who finished in tenth. There were signs of trouble throughout the race, but ‘The Big One’ only came with nine laps left in the race, and, from there all hell broke loose!

Of the 22 cars running at the chequered flag, 14 were still on the lead lap, which is rather surprising given the sheer number of cars involved in one wreck or another. Before the Lap 191 monster wreck, there had already been a number of crashes, including one on pit road, in which the eternally unlucky Jimmie Johnson got caught up in, amongst others.

All in all, 21 cars were damaged in the biggest wreck, which was caused by Matt Di Benedetto, who had, up until then, been having a very good race, and Paul Menard, who was part of the cause in The Clash’s wreck last weekend. However, even after a crash that involved more than half the field, there was still more trouble to come…

In the last nine scheduled laps, there were two more cautions for two further wrecks – the latter of which pushed the race into overtime, just to get a result. But, after all that, it was Hamlin who kept it together and fended off teammate Kyle Busch for the win, despite a very close final lap and a late challenge from Joey Logano.

Hamlin didn’t, by any means, lead the most laps and he didn’t finish that high in either of the stages; he was down in 21st by the end of Stage 2, but that didn’t really matter by the end of the race. He played his cards better than teammate Busch in the final laps, correctly choosing the outside lane to take his first win in 47 races.

The race started very well for Kyle Busch who took the first stage win of the season, despite starting the race down in 31st position. By the end of Stage 2, the younger Busch brother had dropped to twelfth, but he made his comeback in the final stage and looked set to take his first ever Daytona 500 win before what proved to be the final restart. He was, however, outmanoeuvred by Hamlin, meaning Busch will have to wait another year to try and fill the Harley J. Earl Trophy sided gap in his trophy cabinet. 2020 will be Busch’s 15th attempt at the Daytona victory… who knows if he’ll finally be successful then!

Ryan Blaney was the man to take the Stage 2 victory, and he looked to be the class of the field for a long time, but, like so many others, it all came crashing down for him when he got caught up in The Big One and his #12 received terminal damage, forcing the Penske driver out of what could’ve been a very promising race.

Another driver who’s race turned into a story of what could’ve been was Johnson, suggesting that his luck has not turned for this season and taking his winning-less streak in points races up to 60 races. As was the case so many times last season, Johnson got caught up in a crash through no fault of his own, which subsequently compromised the rest of his race. The #48 Hendrick driver sustained a fair amount of damage in the pit road wreck, which was caused by Cody Ware spinning and hitting a line of slower moving cars who were coming into the pits. He also got tangled up in the Lap 191 wreck, eventually finishing the race in ninth place.

Last year’s Cup Champion, Joey Logano, looked to be in contention for the victory in the closing stages of the race but, after working so well with teammate Blaney throughout the race, he was hurt badly when he was left isolated after the wreck – meaning he couldn’t quite take it to the Joe Gibbs drivers, who were themselves working very well together. Erik Jones managed to sneak past Logano on the last lap, meaning the Penske driver finished the race in fourth – behind all three Joe Gibbs cars.

The 61st Daytona 500 was certainly a tale of two races, with the first 190 or so laps being fairly calm, by NASCAR’s standards at least, and the last ten (plus the six overtime laps) being absolute carnage; an hour passed between the yellow flag flying for The Big One and the chequered flag emerging, showing just how chaotic those last ten laps were!

But, after all that, it was Hamlin who came out victorious and he’s the only one who will have his name engraved onto the Harley J. Earl Trophy. NASCAR returns next weekend at Atlanta where Hamlin will be looking to make it two from two, and everyone else will be trying to stop him…

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 17: Denny celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 61st Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Top Ten Finishers:

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Erik Jones
  4. Joey Logano
  5. Michael McDowell
  6. Ty Dillon
  7. Kyle Larson
  8. Ryan Preece
  9. Jimmie Johnson
  10. Ross Chastain

Championship Standings:

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr
  5. Erik Jones

(Featured image credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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