DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — Denny Hamlin held on to the lead after a two-lap restart to win his second Daytona 500. He beat teammates Kyle Busch and Erik Jones to the finish line in a 1-2-3 finish for Joe Gibbs Racing.
The win comes in the first Cup Series race after JGR co-owner J.D. Gibbs’ death. J.D. Gibbs, the son of former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, died in January at 49 after dealing with a neurological disease. J.D. Gibbs helped get Hamlin a ride at Joe Gibbs Racing and ran the No. 11, Hamlin’s number, during his own driving career.
“This one’s for J.D.,” Hamlin said after climibing from the car. “We’re desperately going to miss him the rest of our lives.
A 21-car crash with less than 10 laps to go took out a host of contenders including Aric Almirola, Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Blaney, Paul Menard and many others. DiBenedetto was getting a push from Menard at the front of the field and got turned around and into Menard. That set off a chain reaction crash that ended up with David Ragan’s car piledriven underneath the back of Almirola’s car for a brief moment.
DiBenedetto had led the most laps of any driver (49) until the crash.
A smaller wreck thinned the herd even further with less than six laps to go. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made an aggressive move on a blocking Kyle Larson that ended up in a crash involving themselves, Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott.
And another crash took out even more cars with less than two laps to go. Clint Bowyer tried to make a pass on Michael McDowell and get in front of McDowell. But Bowyer wasn’t clear of McDowell when he moved across the nose of McDowell’s car and ended up in a crash that took out Elliott (again), Wlliam Byron, Brad Keselowski and others.
First 1-2-3 team finish at Daytona in 22 years
JGR’s top-three sweep is the first time since the 1997 Daytona 500 that a team has taken the top three spots in NASCAR’s biggest race. The last team to do it was Hendrick Motorsports, who had teammates Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven finish behind Jeff Gordon as Gordon won his second Daytona 500.
The victory also comes three years after Hamlin won his first Daytona 500. He beat Martin Truex Jr. to the line by inches in what is still the closest finish in Daytona 500 history. Coincidentally, Truex is a Joe Gibbs Racing teammate of Hamlin’s and was the only team car not to finish in the top three. He was collected in the 21-car crash and finished 35th.