Denny Hamlin opens the season in victory lane.
The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota led 39 laps on his way to scoring the victory in the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway. He overcame an early race incident with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to win the race.
“This win couldn’t be possible without my teammates,” Hamlin said. “Matt (Kenseth) sacrificed so much, pushing me at the right time. Total team effort. Just like Kyle’s championship, we win as one. This is a Joe Gibbs Racing win.”
This is his third career win in the 75-lap exhibition event that kicks off Speedweeks. It’s the fourth win in this event for JGR in the last five years. Hamlin looks to become the first driver since Dale Jarrett in 2000 to win both the Unlimited and the Daytona 500 in the same season.
Joey Logano put on a strong run at Hamlin toward the end of the race but had to settle for runner-up in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford.
“I don’t know if it’s a non-points race that plays into it or if it’s just superspeedway racing,” Logano said. “Typically in the Unlimited, there are a lot of crashes.”
Paul Menard rounded out the podium in his No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Kyle Larson came home fourth in his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Those four cars avoided the final lap melee in Turn 1. Casey Mears rounded out the top-five in his No. 13 Germain Racing Chevrolet as part of the multi-car wreck.
Stenhouse finished sixth in his No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford and Kurt Busch finished seventh in his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Austin Dillon placed eighth in his No. 3 RCR Chevrolet followed by Brad Keselowski in ninth racing his No. 2 Ford with Greg Biffle rounding out the top-10 in his No. 16 RFR Ford.
The race lasted 79 laps, four over the scheduled conclusion. There were six cautions for 24 laps, 12 lead changes among three different drivers and 12 cars finished on the lead lap.