Denny Hamlin survives late demolition derby to win his second Daytona 500

From Matthew Mayer of :

Denny Hamlin held off reigning Cup Series champion Joey Logano and teammate Kyle Busch to win the 61st Daytona 500 on Sunday. It’s the second win of Hamlin’s career in The Great American Race. Hamlin won a race that, for the most part, was a clean one until chaos ensued with less than 10 laps to go.

Hamlin was coming off his first winless season and faced pressure within Joe Gibbs Racing with a new crew chief and Christopher Bell rising through the ranks. That didn’t phase Hamlin, as he blocked both Logano and Busch in overtime to take the checkered flag.

The No. 11 driver dedicated the win to the late-J.D. Gibbs, who died in January at the age of 49 after a four-year battle with degenerative neurological disease. J.D., the son of team owner and Super Bowl winning coach Joe Gibbs, served as president of Joe Gibbs Racing from 1997 to 2015. 

This is the second straight year where the Daytona 500 had a connection to someone that passed. Last year, Austin Dillon took the checkered flag in the No. 3, made famous by Dale Earnhardt Sr., 20 years after Earnhardt won his first and only career Great American Race. 

As Hamlin led the race, behind him Paul Menard and Matt DiBenedetto made contact, initiating a pile-up that involved more than half the field with less than 10 laps to go. Notables involved included Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola, who both had a shot to win the race last year. 

The carnage was so massive that NASCAR was forced to throw the red flag for track clean-up and to address the running order. It took nearly 30 minutes before transitioning back to yellow. 

It didn’t take nearly as long to get back to yellow once we went green. Just as the field approached five to go, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got loose and collected six cars including Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman. 

The field then lined up for a green, white checkered finish but before we could get the white flag — just as Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin were racing side-by-side — Clint Bowyer made an aggressive move from the sixth position and caused another big wreck. William Byron and Elliott took the brunt of it. This one sent the race to overtime, but not before another red flag.

Hamlin would go on to restart, take the lead and never give it back in overtime, winning the race at 10-to-1 odds. Luckily for the folks out in Las Vegas, Michael McDowell (fifth place) and Ty Dillon (sixth place) didn’t win the race. SuperBookUSA had Dillon at 100-to-1 and McDowell at 80-to-1. If Dillon had won, bookmakers would have had to pay out $10,000 on a $100 bet.  

2019 Daytona 500 results

  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
  11. Alex Bowman
  12. Brad Keselowski
  13. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  14. Ryan Newman
  15. Parker Kligerman
  16. Austin Dillon
  17. Chase Elliott
  18. Corey LaJoie
  19. BJ McLeod
  20. Clint Bowyer
  21. William Byron
  22. Jamie McMurray
  23. Brendan Gaughan
  24. Landon Cassill
  25. Kurt Busch
  26. Kevin Harvick
  27. Tyler Reddick
  28. Matt DiBenedetto
  29. Paul Menard
  30. David Ragan
  31. Ryan Blaney
  32. Aric Almirola
  33. Daniel Suarez
  34. Daniel Hemric
  35. Martin Truex Jr.
  36. Matt Tifft
  37. Chris Buescher
  38. Bubba Wallace
  39. Cody Ware
  40. Casey Mears

Here’s how the whole race went down, including results from the first two stages: 

Stage 1: Kyle Busch climbs through the pack

Byron led the field to green alongside Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman. Byron led the first couple laps before shuffling it with two-time plate-race winner Stenhouse and DiBenedetto, who moved from the No. 32 with Go Fas Racing to the No. 95 with Leavine Family Racing in the offseason. The laps led were the first of DiBenedetto’s career in a Daytona 500.

As DiBenedetto took control of the lead, about half the field began making its first scheduled green flag pit stops of the season shortly after Lap 16. Before the second half could make its way down for tires and fuel, Corey LaJoie suffered damage which brought out the first caution of the day.

Stenhouse emerged as the leader on the restart trailed by Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola. The No. 17 held the lead from the high line for a few laps before Kyle Busch worked his way into the top spot. Busch had started the race 31st, but benefited from the early caution.

As Kyle Busch cruised in the lead his older brother, Kurt Busch, got loose and spun out with less than 10 laps to go in the stage while trying to make a pass on Stenhouse. Busch made contact with Bubba Wallace in the spin. Jamie McMurray, in what could’ve been his final NASCAR Cup Series start, couldn’t avoid the No. 43 and suffered damage as well.

Kyle Busch remained atop the running order coming to green and led the final eight laps, going on to win the first stage of the season.

Stage 1 results

  1. Kyle Busch
  2. Alex Bowman
  3. Joey Logano
  4. Daniel Suarez
  5. Ryan Blaney
  6. Denny Hamlin
  7. Chase Elliott
  8. Kyle Larson
  9. Kevin Harvick
  10. Erik Jones

Stage 2: Ryan Blaney gets it done

Varying pit strategy saw Logano lead the field back to green to start Stage 2. Logano led early before hitting pit road with a group of Fords a little after 10 laps in. While the newly unveiled Mustangs made their adjustments, DiBenedetto resumed the lead. The new No. 95 driver went on to lead more laps in the first two stages than he had previously in his entire career with the No. 32 team.

DiBenedetto put it in cruise control alongside a group of five other drivers — Kyle Busch, Bowman, Byron, Erik Jones and Elliott — who operated under similar pit strategy and stayed out. Things then got dicey in the main pack, as Parker Kligerman and Casey Mears made contact away from the group and brought out the caution with 14 to go in the stage.

While the six drivers who stayed out likely would have been knocked from contention for Stage 2 points, the caution allowed them to pit without issue and stay in the game. Kyle Busch capitalized on the opportunity, beating DiBenedetto off pit road.

Busch restarted fifth behind Blaney, Keselowski, Preece and  Larson. All four of those drivers stayed out during the yellow. Blaney and Keselowski held the top two spots on the restart, while Busch, Preece and Larson fell back through the pack.

Blaney had no problem holding off the pack for the final laps in Stage 2, claiming his first green-and-white checkered of the season. 

Stage 2 results

  1. Ryan Blaney
  2. William Byron
  3. Aric Almirola
  4. Brad Keselowski
  5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  6. Matt DiBenedetto
  7. Kevin Harvick
  8. Daniel Suarez
  9. Jimmie Johnson
  10. Joey Logano

Final Stage: ‘The Big One’ strikes late

Byron and Almirola led the field to green for the Final Stage after staying out with a group of eight other cars between stages. Byron won the battle at the start-finish line and began pacing the field while his teammate and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson moved his way into the top five. 

Cars began making their way to pit road with around 40 laps to go. Things got ugly when teammates Cody Ware and BJ McLeod collided near the pit entrance, sending the No. 52 barrelling like a wrecking ball into a crowd of innocent cars. Tyler Reddick got the worst of it, while Johnson was knocked out of contention after taking serious rear-panel damage. Stenhouse was also involved, but got by mostly unscathed, however he did have to restart from the rear for pitting early.

Once the dust settled, McMurray emerged as the race leader on pit strategy despite taking damage earlier in the race. His run up front was short lived though, as he fell into the middle of the pack while Hamlin assumed the lead. Things were beginning to get interesting when NASCAR threw the caution flag for debris, allowing everyone to catch their breath. 

Hamlin held serve on the restart ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Jones. Shortly after, Jones slowed and brought his No. 20 into the pits from the third position citing fuel pressure problems. Then, with 20 to go Kyle Larson caught a tire rub, spun out and hit the wall hard to bring out another caution.

The No. 11 again restarted from the lead with his teammate, Busch, behind him. Just as we got under 15 laps to go, Keselowski cut a tire and went spinning to bring out the ninth caution, meaning the Vegas total of over 8.5 hit. 

On the next restart, CHAOS ensued. Menard and DiBenedetto collided, causing a pile-up involving more than half the field. Blaney and Almirola were among the drivers caught up. 

Once we got going again, Kyle Busch took the green flag but it was short-lived because the field wasting no time wrecking again. This time, it was Stenhouse who dove to the middle and collected Larson, Bowman, Harvick, Keselowski and Elliott. 

You didn’t think it was gonna end there did you? Of course not! Clint Bowyer got aggressive on the green-white-checkered and spun the field before the white ever appeared, sending the race to NASCAR overtime.

On the restart it was Kyle Busch and Hamlin side-by-sid. But coming to the checkered flag, it was Hamlin who blocked the field to win his second Daytona 500. 


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