Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Chesterfield County native, took the checkered flag in the 58th running of the Daytona 500, claiming his first victory in the biggest race of the year.
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Not even Hollywood could have scripted this for Hamlin, who had a dominant auto most of the day and had led a race-high 94 laps going into the final one.
Matt Kenseth was leading on the final lap when Hamlin made his move.
With Daytona the first race of the union between JGR and FRR, Truex wanted to assure his new quasi-teammates he was onboard and appreciative of the support his single-car outfit was getting from Joe Gibbs' four-car powerhouse that won a series-best 14 times last season.
Moments after Denny Hamlin won the closest finish in Daytona 500 history on Sunday, his childhood dream was revealed by his mother. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards also rounded out the top five. "They don't get much more crushing than that", said Kenseth, who was seeking a third career Daytona 500 and was, right up until turns three and four of the final lap, very much the driver in the proverbial catbird seat.
"I had no anticipations of winning this race on the white-flag [penultimate] lap", Hamlin said. "We had talked about a plan overnight to just work together, work together and I've never seen it executed so flawlessly". I thought I could keep that foot or so.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., seeking his third Daytona 500 victory, came up empty as he tried to force his way through the field late in the race.
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"We cleared the 20 and drag raced with the 78", Hamlin said.
"I didn't know we had won".
Before he became a Daytona 500 victor and Sprint Cup Champion, Harvick was just a talented young racer, forced to step into one of the most important rides in the sport, under the most tragic of circumstances. I missed it by a little bit on the date.
"I don't even know how I did it!" It was Joe Gibbs Racing's first win in the race since Dale Jarrett won in 1993.
"There's a million things you could do differently", Kenseth said. This is competition. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to win.
The anticipation surrounding polesitter Chase Elliott's DAYTONA 500 outlook dissipated early. After losing the lead, Elliott slipped back to the back half of the top 10 before spinning into the infield grass and damaging the front end of his auto on lap 19. With good racing, a few cautions, and a photo finish, this years "Great American Race" was one for the books.
"Obviously back in 2007, when we started Cup racing, the fans were apprehensive". "That's why this one is so big for us, and me in particular, is that you don't like to be the guy that wins races but not the big ones, and you don't win a championship". "In the closing laps, (spotter) Billy (O'Dea) pushed me hard on the radio and we got all the positions we could".