Denny Hamlin Wins 2nd Closest Finish In Daytona 500 History, Main Takeaways

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Denny Hamlin is now a three-time Daytona 500 champion. Hamlin, made a last lap move for the win en route to joining Bobby Allison, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett as three time winners of the Great American Race.

Only Richard Petty (7) and Cale Yarborough (4) have more.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver also become the first driver to go back-to-back since Sterling Marlin won two straight ‘500’s in 1994 and again in 1995. The last time before that was 1983 and again in 1984.

Hamlin, is in rare company that’s for sure.

The Virginia native beat Ryan Blaney to the finish line by just .014-seconds marking this the second closest Daytona 500 finish in the 62 year history.

Hamlin, now has five top four finishes in his last six Daytona 500 starts in the No. 11 Toyota.

He had to come from the back too as his car failed pre race inspection twice. That didn’t phase them though as the Toyota plan was to run in the back until the second stage.

In order to finish first, you first much finish.

Hamlin and his Toyota teammates rode around the back of the race until the second stage and then it was on. He would lead a race-high 79 of 209 laps in his third Daytona 500 triumph in the last five years.

This was the third time in the last seven years that the driver to win the most laps won the ‘500 outright — Hamlin accounts for two of them.

Ryan Blaney narrowly finished second in his No. 12 Ford for his first top five finish in his last six starts at Daytona. Four of those last six has seen him finish 26th or worse. This was his second runner-up though in his last four Daytona 500 starts as Blaney is becoming one of the better superspeedway racers. He beat Ryan Newman for the win at Talladega last October on the last superspeedway points paying race.

Speaking of Newman, the Indiana native was involved in a very scary crash on the final lap. Newman, was leading towards the end and was pushed by Ryan Blaney to the lead on the backstretch on the final lap. Newman went low to block Blaney coming onto the tri-oval and Blaney inadvertently spun Newman across the track and into the outside SAFER barrier. Hamlin, skated by and had a drag race with Blaney to the finish.

Newman, would flip upside down and get hit by another car on the drivers side window. He was transported directly to Halifax Hospital down the street with no word at this time on his condition.

Chris Buescher would finish third in his No. 17 Ford after scoring stage points in each stage. David Ragan was fourth in his No. 36 Ford in what could be his last race of his Cup career as he came out of retirement for a Daytona 500 one off.

Kevin Harvick rounds out the top five in his No. 4 Ford.

The 209 laps run breaks the record of 208 set in 2010 and 2011 for the most laps run in Daytona 500 history. The race went virtually clean for the first 182 laps before seeing five crashes over the final 26 laps run.

The race started with so much momentum as this was the biggest Daytona 500 in recent history. For the fifth straight year, all 101,500 seats were sold out but with camping, the crowd was the largest in years. Mix that with the largest purse available in the 62 year history and President Trump and The First Lady being in attendance to give the command on Sunday gave this ‘500 a lot of juice.

But, that juice was quickly taken away. Rain fell right as we were about to go green which delayed the start 62-minutes. Then, we got 20 laps in before rain fell again. Just as the track was ready to race again, rain came back and effectively ended the night.

We’d come back on Monday for just the second time in Daytona 500 history but the race ended somber in a frightening crash involving Newman.

“Big 3” Continues Daytona Speedweeks Dominance

This seems like an annual topic of conversation but the “Big 3” in NASCAR are typically the ones to beat during Daytona Speedweeks. Since 2005, they’ve won 46 times in NASCAR Cup Series action alone. That’s a 75-percent success rate.

That’s huge, especially for a superspeedway track. Furthermore, they’ve now won 27 of the last 30 Daytona Speedweeks races overall.

They end 4-for-4 this year with Erik Jones (JGR) winning the Clash and Joey Logano (Penske) and William Byron (Hendrick) winning both Duels on Thursday. Hamlin (JGR) joins that group.

In 2018, Team Penske won the Clash (Brad Keselowski) and a Duel (Ryan Blaney). Hendrick Motorsports won a Duel (Chase Elliott) too. It happened in 2017 as well. Penske won the Clash (Joey Logano) while HMS (Chase Elliott) and Joe Gibbs Racing (Denny Hamlin) own the Duels.

Last year, Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports) won the Clash. Joey Logano (Team Penske) won the second Duel too.

Last Lap Pass Again

Four of the last five Daytona 500’s now have seen a last lap pass for the win. Denny Hamlin stormed through the pack and passed his teammate Matt Kenseth for the lead in Turn 4 of the final lap in 2016 and held off a hard charging Martin Truex Jr. for the victory.

In 2017, Kurt Busch passed Kyle Larson in Turn 2 on the final lap.

In 2018, Austin Dillon crashed Aric Almirola on the backstretch going for the win.

On Monday, Hamlin went from first, to third to first all in the span of a half of a lap.

More Chaos

The last four years of Cup races at Daytona have been complete mayhem. In the 2017 Daytona 500, 34 of the 40 cars that started were involved in some kind of wreck throughout the afternoon. The 2018 Daytona 500 saw 31 of 40 cars crash. The July race that year had 34 of 40. The Clash last year saw 17 of the 20 cars leave with damage while this year’s Clash run last Sunday saw all 18 starters collect some sort of damage during the all-star event. Last year’s ‘500 saw 36 of 40 cars involved in a crash at some point of the day too.

This year’s, more chaos.

It took 183 laps but unfortunately, many cars were wadded up again. Lap 183 saw 19 cars collected in a “Big One” down the backstretch. Lap 192 saw a two car incident. Lap 198 saw another big crash, this time a nine car crash. On Lap 203, we saw a three car accident on the restart. Then, the final lap we saw the tragic crash with Ryan Newman.

Overall, 34 of the 40 cars had crash damage on Monday and the only reason it wasn’t higher was because two cars had engines blow.

Bad Luck For Front Row Starters…Again

The last time a pole winner won the Daytona 500, William Byron was two years old (2000). Furthermore, the last time the pole winner even finished in the top five was 2002 (Bill Elliott). In fact, 16 of the last 19 races now have seen the pole winner finish outside of the top 10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. looked racy in this year’s race in leading the first 23 laps, but he was penalized for going below the yellow line to pass on the backstretch on Lap 160 and it effectively ruined his race winning chances.

He was then hit from behind while trying to pit shortly later and would finish a disappointing 20th. Five of the last six pole winners have came home 17th or worse.

What about the outside front row starting spot. The last win came in 1993 (Dale Jarrett). They have only finished in the top 10 just four times since 2006. Alex Bowman would only finish 24th on Monday.

Daytona 500 Winless Droughts Continue On

There’s already a solid list of drivers who have never won the Daytona 500 before their careers ended. Terry Labonte was 32, Mark Martin was 0-for-29, Rusty Wallace was 0-for-23, Tony Stewart 0-for-17, Carl Edwards 0-for-12, Ned Jarrett 0-for-7 and so on.

Now, Martin Truex Jr. (0-for-16) Kyle Busch (0-for-15) and and Brad Keselowski (0-for-11) remain on that list themselves.

Busch and Keselowski had great cars but saw their races end just before the end when Busch’s engine blew on Lap 181 and Keselowski was caught up in a crash on Lap 183. They’d finish 34th and 36th respectively.

Truex, was also collected in that Lap 183 “Big One” and would finish 32nd.

Five times in the last six years has Keselowski finished 27th or worse at Daytona. In fact, since July 2014, the Penske driver has 11 finishes of 17th or worse in his last 13 Daytona tries.

For Busch, he now has finished 20th or worse in five of his last six Daytona tries.

In Truex’s car, he has just four four top five finishes in 60 career superspeedway starts, only two of them occurred at Daytona. Truex, has seven finishes of 18th or worse in his last 10 overall Daytona starts.

Buescher Shines Again

Chris Buescher has been great here at Daytona with JTG Daughery Racing. Buescher, came into Speedweeks with three top 10 finishes in his last five Daytona tries. Now though, he was piloting the No. 17 Ford with Roush Fenway Racing. This is a team that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was at his best in during superspeedway races.

Buescher, quickly shined in the car too. The Texas native finished ninth in the first stage and 10th in the second one en route to a third place finish on Monday evening.

“Had a fun race all the way up to the last point and really thought we had it,” Buescher said on Monday. “Him (Hamlin) and the 12 (Ryan Blaney) tendeming there through the backstretch, wish I could have got in line, but without any real help behind us, kind of got pulled away and had that gap. The 11 was able to fill it there and I don’t think if it would have been for that if we could have gotten three Fords in a line, I don’t think we would have had much to worry about. Obviously trying to do everything you can to push, and it’s kind of part of it.”

Top 5 For Ragan

David Ragan announced last year that the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season would be his last full time season in the sport. He didn’t know it then, but he would get a Daytona 500 ride this February.

Front Row Motorsports had a third charter still and teamed with Rick Ware Racing to put it ion track. Ragan, was tabbed as the driver for Daytona for obvious reasons. He’s won twice in his NASCAR career, both on superspeedway’s.

So, Ragan came back and came from 30th to bring his No. 36 Ford home inside the top five in fourth.

Daytona 500 Results

  1. 11 Hamlin
  2. 12 Blaney
  3. 17 Buescher
  4. 36 Ragan
  5.  4 Harvick
  6. 14 Bowyer
  7. 62 Gaughan
  8. 32 LaJoie
  9.  6 Newman
  10. 42 Larson
  11. 38 Nemechek R
  12. 3 ADillon
  13. 16 Haley
  14. 34 McDowell
  15. 15 Poole R
  16. 43 Wallace Jr.
  17.  9 Elliott
  18. 20 Jones -1
  19. 21 DiBenedetto -2
  20. 47 Stenhouse Jr.  -3
  21. 95 Bell R OUT
  22. 10 Almirola -4
  23. 51 Gase -6
  24. 88 Bowman -6
  25. 77 Chastain OUT
  26. 22 Logano OUT
  27. 66 Hill OUT
  28.  8 Reddick R OUT
  29. 37 Buescher OUT
  30. 13 TDillon OUT
  31. 27 Sorenson OUT
  32. 19 Truex Jr. OUT
  33.  1 KuBusch OUT
  34. 18 KyBusch OUT
  35. 48 Johnson OUT
  36.  2 Keselowski OUOT
  37. 41 Custer R OUT
  38. 52 McLeod OUT
  39. 00 Houff R OUT
  40. 24 Byron OUT


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