Denny Hamlin, Winner of the 61st Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.--Denny Hamlin led a trio of Joe Gibbs’ Toyota’s across the finish line in a marathon Daytona 500. Kyle Busch was runner-up and Eric Jones was third in a race that lasted 4 hours and 15 minutes.

“What happened here is an emotional high for all of us,” said Gibbs. “It’s unreal. It’s an unbelievable experience. We’re all shocked.”

The victory Sunday honored Joe’s son, J.D. Gibbs, who died last month after battling a degenerative neurological disease. He co-founded the race team with his father and signed Hamlin as a driver.

The race was marred by 12 caution and three red flag periods. Only three of the 40 cars that finished the race had not been involved in some type of wreck or accident. There were five wrecks in the final 20 laps of regulation -- and only 14 cars finished on the lead lap.

Hamlin and Busch were two of the cars that were unscathed. Ross Chastain was the only other driver to avoid trouble. It was the first time since Hendrick Motorsports in 1997 that a team swept the top three spots in the Daytona 500.

“It’s amazing to be here in victory lane,” said Hamlin, who won the 2016 Daytona 500. “The other one was great, but now, I can let this one sink in. I’ll have a terrible hangover tomorrow, but I’ll enjoy this one the rest of my life.”

The remaining top-10 finishers: 4. Joey Logano, 5. Michael McDowell, 6. Ty Dillon, 7. Kyle Larson, 8. Ryan Preece, 9. Jimmie Johnson, 10.Ross Chastain.

Jimmie Johnson was the highest finishing Hendrick Motorsport driver. His teammates, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, and William Byron finished 11th, 17th, and 21st, respectively.

The driver that led the most laps was Matt Dibenetto, driver of the No. 95 Toyota. He led 49 laps but was bumped from behind by Paul Menard on lap 190 that took out 14 cars. Binedetto was pushed into the outside wall, causing a domino-effect for the cars behind, leaving multiple drivers with no place to evade the incident on the inside and outside lanes.

“I don’t really know what happened,” said Dibenetto. “It was so sudden. I’m spinning, hitting the wall, and see cars all around me. There’s really nothing you can do when that happens. The other guys are trying to win just like us.”

Kyle Busch earned the Stage 1 victory, while Blaney won Stage 2.

ANNETT GETS FIRST XFINITY VICTORY

Michael Annett led 5 times for 45 laps on the way to his first career Xfinity Series win Saturday at Daytona.

He struggled through a 2018 season that failed to produce a single top-five finish. Going into the race, his No. 1 Chevrolet team was not considered a favorite, because he had not won a race after 230 starts.

“I’ve spent eight years in the series, so this is amazing,” said Annett. “I couldn’t have done it without these guys (the crew). They’ve stuck with me through the hard times when everybody counts us out and wonders why I get to drive this car, and I think we showed it today. Hopefully, this is the start of something even better.”

The remaining top-10 finishers: 2. Justin Allgaier, 3. Brandon Jones, 4. Ryan Sieg, 5. Austin Cindric, 6. Christopher Bell, 7. Jeff Green, 8. John Nemechek, 9. Tyler Reddick, 10. Chase Elliott.

HILL HOLDS OFF ENFINGER FOR TRUCK WIN.

Austin Hill managed to stay out of trouble during Friday night’s Daytona Truck Series race, but had to hold off a hard charging Grant Enfinger, who came from three laps down to take second.

“We knew coming to Daytona was going to be tough,” said Hill. “When we went overtime, man, I was just so scared. So much stuff was running through my head. That whole last lap my heart was pounding. I thought they were going to get to my outside and make it a drag race. I never thought in a million years I would win at Daytona.”

Enfinger was involved in one of the earlier wrecks that saw only 9 of the 32 starting trucks take the checkered flag.

“We had some bad luck at the beginning,” said Enfinger. “We had to fall back and regroup, but the team did a great job getting me back into it. The truck was running great at the end, but I just couldn’t get to the front.”

Ross Chastain was third, while Spencer Boyd and Matt Crafton rounded out the top-5 finishers.

NEWMAN TALKS ABOUT MOVE TO ROUSH

Ryan Newman finished 14th in Sunday’s Daytona 500, in his first start for Roush Fenway Racing.

While Newman is a veteran on the NASCAR circuit, he will be starting his 19th season with a new Cup Series team.

RFR is the winningest team in NASCAR history, but Newman said it’s the opportunity, and not pressure, that will allow him to flourish this season.

“Obviously it’s good to be in line with an organization that’s got a lot of success stories, but at the same time there’s no guarantee on future success,” Newman told Omnisport during an interview. “As a team and an organization we have to keep our nose on the grindstone and stay focused do the things we need to be better than everyone else. That’s the only way we are going to get to victory lane.”

According to Newman, working with Roush Fenway doesn’t equal automatic wins. He said he had a “good thing” with his previous team, Richard Childress Racing, but he won just one race (with 13 top-5 finishes) during his five years with RCR.

“The results are what you want to see because that was the reason for making the change,” he continued. “I had a good thing going, I guess you could say, but that good thing wasn’t good enough and I wasn’t in victory lane.

“Ultimately now, it’s about learning a whole new group of people and creating a new chemistry and being better than everybody else out there to get to victory lane. If you’re not, it takes a little racing luck. Someone could have a misfortune, or you could be in the right place at the right time when the caution comes out, you never know. We just stay focused on what we need to do and go out and do our thing and grow together.”

Racing Joke: Brad and his wife are out for a walk in the park, when she asks, “How would you describe me?”

Brad: “ABCDEFGHIJK.”

Wife: “What does that mean?”

Brad: “Adorable, beautiful, cute, delightful, elegant, fashionable, gorgeous, and hot.”

Wife: “Aw, thank you, but what about IJK?”

Brad: “I’m just kidding!”

Weekend Racing: The Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series will be racing this weekend at the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Sat, Feb 23: Xfinity Series race 2 of 33; Starting time: 2:00 pm ET; TV: FoxSports1.

Sat, Feb 23: Truck Series race 2 of 23; Starting time: 4:30 pm ET; TV: FoxSports1.

Sun, Feb 24: Cup Series race 2 of 36; Starting time: 2:00 pm ET; TV: FOX.

Racing Trivia Question: Which is the longest oval track on the NASCAR circuit?

Last Week’s Question:  Which Cup Series team will Daniel Suarez be driving for his year? Answer. He replaces Kurt Busch in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Ford.

Gerald Hodges is a syndicated NASCAR writer and author. You may contact him by e-mail at: hodges@race500.com.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.