Denny Hamlin Wins His Second Daytona 500 in Four Years, Race Red Flagged Twice In Final Laps

By  //  February 18, 2019

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Gibbs Racing Toyota's Finish 1-2-3, first time since 1997

ABOVE VIDEO: SPACE COAST DAILY TV: Space Coast Daily’s Alan Zlotorzynzki recaps the 61st running of the Daytona 500 won by Denny Hamlin.

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA  – Joe Gibbs Racing survived three separate dramatic late race crashes to finish 1-2-3, as Denny Hamlin won the 61st annual DAYTONA 500 Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, his second triumph in “The Great American Race.”

Hamlin and for that matter, his teammates Kyle Busch and Erik Jones, delivered a special ending to a special day for Joe Gibbs Racing.

The organization honored Joe Gibbs’ late son J.D. Gibbs on Lap 11, as crew members stood on the pit wall as a tribute. J.D. Gibbs, who passed away last month due to a neurological disease, wore No. 11 as a high school football player and later, as a race car driver himself. Hamlin’s car number: 11.

“This one’s for J.D.,” said Hamlin – also the Daytona 500 champion in 2016 – who was brought into the Gibbs organization by J.D. Gibbs.

Hamlin led a top-three sweep for Gibbs’ Toyotas. Hamlin, driving the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, edged Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Chocolate Bar Toyota) by 0.138 seconds. Erik Jones (No. 20 Sport Clips Toyota) finished third, 0.294 back.

ABOVE VIDEO: Extended race highlights of the 61st Daytona 500.

Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford), the 2015 Daytona 500 champion and the reigning Monster Energy Series champion, finished fourth.

The last time a team 1-2-3 in the Daytona 500 was when Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, and Ricky Craven did so for Hendrick Motor Sports in 1997.

This victory required “NASCAR Overtime” due to three late-race incidents and two red flag periods that extended the race to 207 laps – seven laps past the scheduled distance.

A Turn 3, 21-car incident on Lap 191 necessitated a red flag while also setting the stage for a late-race shootout among some of NASCAR’s biggest stars.

After the stoppage, the race was restarted on Lap 195 with Busch leading; Busch had passed Hamlin on the backstretch for the lead prior to the incident.

On that restart, the Toyotas of Busch and Hamlin were being pursued by Fords driven by Clint Bowyer, Michael McDowell and Kevin Harvick. The field made it to Turn 3 before another multi-car accident again brought out the caution flag.

One more restart, this time on Lap 199, was also followed by an accident in Turn 3 that involved nine cars. This time, it was Hamlin nosing past Busch prior to the caution – and a second red flag.

ABOVE VIDEO: Team owner Joe Gibbs describes the impact of this win following the passing of his son J.D. Gibbs, the significance of the No. 11 and the relationship between his son and Denny Hamlin.

That set the stage for the overtime. When track clean-up was complete, the final restart came on Lap 206 and Hamlin was able to cagily out-run Busch to the checkered flag over the last two laps.

“[Kyle] got a great run on us on the backstretch, and we had to block it,” Hamlin said.

“It just wasn’t meant to be, obviously,” Busch said.

The Daytona 500 was divided into three “stages” of 60, 60 and 80 laps. Stage winners collect additional, valuable points that go toward the season-long standings for the Monster Energy Series championship.

Busch – the 2015 series titlist still seeking a victory in the Daytona 500 – took the first stage, leading Laps 35-60.

His brother Kurt Busch, the 2017 Daytona 500 champion and 2004 series champion, saw his hopes vanish on Lap 50 when he got tangled up in a six-car, Turn 2 incident that ultimately led to a 25th-place finish.

ABOVE VIDEO: All the crashes from the 2019 Daytona 500.

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The Stage 2 winner was determined by a spirited last-lap battle involving several cars.

Ryan Blaney grabbed the win in the No. 12 Menards/Peak Ford, barely edging polesitter William Byron to end Lap 120. The race took three hours and 45-minute to complete as two red flags and 12 yellow flags for 47 laps slowed the cars some.

The mix of youth and inexperience combined with veteran drivers never allowed the ‘boring’ single file racing to surface many feared this Daytona 500 could produce. There were 15 lead changes among nine drivers with Matt DiBenedetto leading the most laps on the day with 49.

DiBenedetto looked like he had the car to beat late but it was his car that was clipped in the right rear fender by the No.21 of Paul Menard triggering the 21-car event.

The final three incidents of the day collected a combined 37 cars, some on multiple occasions. Of the 40 cars that started the race, 14 finished on the lead lap and 21 did not finish at all.

Aside from Joe Gibbs Racing enduring, seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson had a day that can only be described as extremely down and back up. Johnson overcame a two-lap penalty and crash driving a damaged car to a top-10 finish in his first race working with new crew chief Kevin Meendering.

Seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson had a day that can only be described as extremely down and back up. Johnson overcame a two-lap penalty and crash driving a damaged car to a top-10 finish in his first race working with new crew chief Kevin Meendering.

RACE STATS: (MRN)

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 45 Mins, 55 Secs.
Average Speed: 137.44 MPH
Margin of Victory: .138 Seconds

Race Comments: Denny Hamlin won the 61st running Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, his 32nd victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Prior to the start of the race, the following car(s) dropped to the rear of the field under penalty for the reasons indicated: Nos. 27, 42 (transmission), 40 (rear gear).
Failed to Qualify: (2) 71 Ryan Truex(i), 66 Joey Gase(i).

Caution Flags: 12 for 47 laps; Laps: 22-24 (Debris Turn 2 [52]); 51-53 (#43, 1, 40, 17, 31, 3 Incident Turn 2 [52]); 62-65 (Stage 1 Conclusion [1]); 108-111 (#27, 96 Incident Turn 1 [36]); 122-125 (Stage 2 Conclusion [38]); 160-167 (#31, 17, 51, 52, 48 Incident Pit Road [37]); 175-177 (Debris Turn 3 [48]); 182-184 (#42 Incident Turn 3 [48]); 188-190 (#2 Incident Frontstretch [20]); 192-194 (#95, 21, 20, 12, 36, 41, 3, 6, 10, 38, 17, 47, 37, 8, 19, 9, 48, 24, 13, 22, 42 Incident Turn 3 [Red: 24:57] [2]); 196-198 (#17, 42, 9, 88, 4, 13, 2 Incident Turn 3 [20]); 200-205 (14, 34, 9, 00, 24, 40, 2, 62, 34 Incident Turn 3 [Red: 14:41] [6]).

Lead Changes: 15 among 9 drivers; W. Byron 1-2; R. Stenhouse Jr. 3-6; M. DiBenedetto 7-21; K. Busch 22; R. Stenhouse Jr. 23-34; K. Busch 35-61; J. Logano 62-72; D. Hemric # 73; M. DiBenedetto 74-107; K. Busch 108; R. Blaney 109-121; W. Byron 122-163; J. McMurray 164-169; D. Hamlin 170-190; K. Busch 191-198; D. Hamlin 199-207.

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