Denny Hamlin avoids carnage to win his 2nd Daytona 500 in the longest race in nearly a decade

YouTube download / NASCAR video / Denny Hamlin wins his second Daytona 500 in overtime under the lights at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019. Hamlin also won the Great American Race in 2012. Photos for Headline Surfer: Denny Hamlin celebrates in Victory Lane after crossing the finish line ahead of Kyle Busch and Eric Jones, in second and third, respectively, for a 1-2-3 Toyota finish. Joey Logano, finished fourth with McDowell rounding out the top 5. The race proved unlucky for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the No. 17 Mustang, who finished 13th. His No. 17 Ford Mustang, was involved in a multi-car crash in pit lane that also collected Tyler Reddick, who finished 31st.
 
By HENRY FREDERICK
Headline Surfer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla -- With 12 cautions for 47 laps, the Daytona 500 dragged on for 3 and 3/4 hours before Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag to win his second Daytona 500 in a crash-marred race, that went to  overtime and 207 total laps to complete.

At 3:45:55 to complete, this was the longest running of the Daytona 500 in nearly a decade: The race in 2011 took 3:59:24.  

Sunday's race started at 2:30 p.m. under sunny skies at the world center of racing, but with NASCAR's gimmicky three-stage racing segments plus a dozen crashes totalling 47 laps, including one on pit road, the race finally finished under the lights of Daytona International Speedway.

And just in time because pre-game festivities were just getting underway for the NBA All-Star game on TNT in Charlotte, NC, NASCAR's home away from home.

The victory could not have come any sooner for Hamlin, which ended a 47-race drought, including no wins in 2018.

The 2019 Daytona 500 was more like a demolition derby  at times / Headline SurferLandon Cassill in the 00 Chevy Camaro is  totaled on lap 196 of the 2019 Daytona 500 / Headline Surfer More than half the cars in the Daytona 500 were involved in wrecks, including the 00 Chevrolet Camaro with the front-end smashed in and forcing Landon Cassill to call at a day on lap 196. He started in 27th and was shown just three spits higher in the finishing order

With stickers on the Joe Gibbs-owned No. 11 Toyota Camry commemorating the Jan. 11 death of Gibbs' son, J.D. Gibbs, and of Glenn Wood, patriarch of the Wood Brothers Racing team, who passed away on Jan. 18, winning the Daytona 500 was all that and more to Hamlin who thrust a clenched right fist in the air while celebrating in Victory Lane. 

“It was just one of those days where I felt like it was meant to be,” Hamlin said. “Hats off to (teammate) Kyle (Busch) as well. I know he was eagerly wanting his first victory in the Daytona 500, but today we just weren’t going to be denied.

Denny Hamlin is allsmiles after winning the 2019 crash-marred Daytona 500 / Headline SurferThe victory could not have come any sooner for Hamlin, which ended a 47-race drought, including no wins in 2018.

With stickers on the Joe Gibbs-owned No. 11 Toyota Camry commemorating the Jan. 11 death of Gibbs' son, J.D. Gibbs, and of Glenn Wood, patriarch of the Wood Brothers Racing team, who passed away on Jan. 18, winning the Daytona 500 was all that and more to Hamlin who thrust a clenched right fist in the air while celebrating in Victory Lane. 

“It was just one of those days where I felt like it was meant to be,” Hamlin said. “Hats off to (teammate) Kyle (Busch) as well. I know he was eagerly wanting his first victory in the Daytona 500, but today we just weren’t going to be denied.

Hamlin, who staved off Busch, was almost stoic about his 38th career win and more significant, earning his second Daytona 500 championship: “The whole (Gibbs) family — they did so much for me over the course of my career. This one is for J.D. We’re desperately going to miss him the rest of our lives. His legacy still lives on through Joe Gibbs Racing and I’m proud to do this for them.”

The elder Gibbs was overcome with emotion in talking about his late son after the race. 

“J.D.’s name is on that car,” Gibbs said. “That’s his number. J.D. found him (Hamlin). What happened here is really unreal. I just thank the Lord for letting us be a part of this.”

All three of Gibbs' drivers in Toyotas, finished the Great American race, 1-2-3 in single file, with Hamlin taking the checkered flag on lap 207, Kyle Busch in the runner-up spot, and Erik Jones behind him. The Daytona 500 in a 200-lap race around the 2.5-mile super-speedway.

But OT would come into play.

Busch chose the bottom inside line on Lap 199, but Hamlin surged ahead on the backstretch moments before contact between the Fords of Clint Bowyer and Michael McDowell triggered a nine-car wreck. 

NASCAR stopped the race for the second time to clear the track of the wrecks, and then Hamlin chose the top lane for the final restart on Lap 206.

By doing so, Hamlin was able to pull down in front of Busch as the cars headed for Turn 1 and stayed in front the lead the rest of the way, as Busch, Joey Logano, McDowell and Erik Jones fought for position behind him. Hamlin crossed the stripe .138 seconds ahead of Busch, frustrated in his 14th failed attempt to win the 500.

“When he gave me the top (on the Lap 199 restart),” Hamlin said, “I was literally doing a little cheer in my mind, thinking my playbook said, ‘Always choose the top no matter who’s behind you — it doesn’t matter.’ I’ve been on the front row for so many restarts and lost ‘em because I’ve been on the bottom.

“Obviously, there were circumstances that happened behind us that allowed us to be in front at the caution.”

Busch said he had no second thoughts about letting Hamlin drop down in front of him after the overtime restart.

“Strength in numbers,” Busch explained. “We were trying to protect at least one of our cars being able to get to Victory Lane, and I felt like we were able to do that with being able to do what we did on that last restart."

Busch continued, "Overall, it’s certainly bittersweet. It’s awesome to see a JGR car in Victory Lane with Joe and J.D. and everything that’s gone on this offseason with all that. But it’s very, very bittersweet for all those that support us and all my team guys that work so hard to try to get to Victory Lane and get our Daytona 500 victory.

Of teammate Hamlin's second Daytona 500 triumph, Busch further lamented: “He’s got two. I’ve got none. We just have to move on and go to the next time.”

What had been a rather routine race turned into carnage with 190 laps run.

The Big One: 21 cars collected with 10 laps to go

After a restart with 10 laps to go, things got ugly going into the third turn: Contact from Paul Menard’s No. 21 Ford sent Matt DiBenedetto’s No. 95 Toyota spinning into the outside wall and back across traffic. It was the big one, NASCAR fans have come to know for the crash that creates havoc on the track. By the time cars finished wrecking, 21 had noticeable damage.

DiBenedetto was eliminated from his maiden run in the No. 95 Toyota Camry, leaving Menard to do a mea culpa on his way out from the infield care center.“I’m not really sure what happened,” Menard said. “I hooked the 95. I was trying to get to his outside, and he was kind of in the middle and he went to the outside and was going back and forth."

Menard added, "The 12 (Ryan Blaney) had a big run, so I jumped up in front of him and hooked the 95. I’ll take the blame for that one, I guess. We had really fast Fords. I sped on pit road and got us behind. We had to play catch-up. We had a shot there at the end though. It was time to go. It’s frustrating that we have to put ourselves in that position to race this way. I tried backing off, but wrecked a lot of cars.”

The Big One with 10 laps to go in the 2019 Daytona 500 collected 21 cars / Headline SurferAfter a restart with 10 laps to go, things got ugly going into the third turn: Contact from Paul Menard’s No. 21 Ford sent Matt DiBenedetto’s No. 95 Toyota spinning into the outside wall and back across traffic. It was the big one, NASCAR fans have come to know for the crash that creates havoc on the track. By the time cars finished wrecking, 21 had noticeable damage.

DiBenedetto was eliminated from his maiden run in the No. 95 Toyota Camry, leaving Menard to do a mea culpa on his way out from the infield care center.“I’m not really sure what happened,” Menard said. “I hooked the 95. I was trying to get to his outside, and he was kind of in the middle and he went to the outside and was going back and forth."

Menard added, "The 12 (Ryan Blaney) had a big run, so I jumped up in front of him and hooked the 95. I’ll take the blame for that one, I guess. We had really fast Fords. I sped on pit road and got us behind. We had to play catch-up. We had a shot there at the end though. It was time to go. It’s frustrating that we have to put ourselves in that position to race this way. I tried backing off, but wrecked a lot of cars.”

Multimedia: The 2018 Daytona 500

 

Youtube download / NASCAR video / Watch the full race from Daytona International Speedway on February 18th, 2018
 
Post Date: Feb. 19, 2018

 

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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com for a decade now. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards in print anddigital platforms. Frederick is enrolled at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's three-fourths through the online Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation is in August.