Denny Hamlin Wins the Daytona 500

by Tucker White On Sun, Feb. 21, 2016

Photo Credit: Noel Lanier

Denny Hamlin edged out his competition to win the Daytona 500.

The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota edged out the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. by 11 one-thousandths of a second to win the 58th running of the Great American Race.

“I just remember pulling up in front of the 4 (Kevin 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,” Hamlin said.  “This is the best. I mean, it’s just the best. It’s the biggest race of my life. The Daytona 500 is – as a kid what you – this is the pinnacle of our sport and I’m just proud to be here.”

After leading 95 laps, he had to jump to the outside line in front of Kevin Harvick on the final lap to get a run on teammate Matt Kenseth. He went up the track to pass him in Turn 3, but Kenseth tried to block him. Hamlin then dove under him, Kenseth got loose trying to block him and fell backward to finish 14th.

Truex summed up the disappointing loss saying, “I did all I thought I could do. I had the lead ‘til like the start of the Daytona over there on the wall and it could have been 20 feet from the line, so just really proud of that effort, really proud of that for Bass Pro Shops and our first race with Toyota. He (Denny Hamlin) just side-drafted and I just should have – I probably should have run him up a little bit more, but I thought we were close enough that I could keep that foot or so, but I couldn’t so I lost it the last second.”

Kyle Busch rounded out the podium in his No. 18 JGR Toyota.

Harvick came home fourth in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five in his No. 19 JGR Toyota.

Defending race winner Joey Logano was unable to get his No. 22 Team Penske Ford near the front in the end to make a run at a second win in the Daytona 500 and settled for sixth.

“The 4 (Harvick) got in front of me and we started moving and then the 11 (Hamlin) saw that and jumped up there and got the push from both of us and then it was a heck of a finish. I don’t like being behind watching it. I want to be involved with it. Overall it is a great start for our Shell Pennzoil team and we kicked off the season with a bunch of great finishes down here in Daytona and we are looking forward to getting to Atlanta,” Logano said.

Kyle Larson came home seventh in his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet followed by Regan Smith in eighth in his No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet. Austin Dillon finished ninth in his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet while Kurt Busch rounded out the top-10 in his No. 41 SHR Chevrolet.

Pre-race betting favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashed out with 29 laps remaining and finished 36th.

“It caught me by surprise,” Earnhardt explained. “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.”

Pole-sitter Chase Elliott spun out exiting Turn 4 and came to a crashing halt in the grass.

“(I) just got in middle there a couple of laps before and got loose off of (turn) four and just lost. I hate it-it had been such a fun week and you hate to end the race before it even got started. Just disappointed for everybody,” Elliott said.

The race lasted three hours, 10 minutes and 25 seconds at an average speed of 157.549 mph. There were six cautions for 31 laps and 20 lead changes among 15 different drivers. The final margin of victory was 11 one-thousanths of a second.

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