Denny Hamlin Gets Emotional Second Daytona 500 Victory

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 17: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 61st Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Five weeks after the death of Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs, the driver he discovered won the Daytona 500 for the second time.

In a two-lap dash in overtime Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, Denny Hamlin held off teammate Kyle Busch to win the 61st running of the Great American Race, an event that featured massive fireworks with five late cautions that left 14 cars on the lead lap at the finish.

The victory was Hamlin’s 32nd in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and it broke a 47-race drought for the 38-year-old from Chesterfield, Va., who had stickers on his No. 11 Toyota Camry commemorating J.D. Gibbs and Glen Wood, patriarch of the Wood Brothers Racing team who passed away on Jan. 18.

“It was just one of those days where I felt like it was meant to be. Hats off to Kyle 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.

“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.”

Denny Hamlin – Joe Gibbs Racing after Winning the Daytona 500 for the second time in his career

Understandably, team owner Joe Gibbs was overcome with emotion when talking about his late son after the race.

“J.D.’s name is on that car. 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.”

Joe Gibbs – Team Owner at Joe Gibbs Racing

Busch chose the bottom lane for a restart on lap 199 of 200, but Hamlin surged ahead on the backstretch moments before contact between the Fords of Clint Bowyer and Michael McDowell triggered a nine-car wreck that forced overtime. NASCAR stopped the race for the second time for the clean-up, and Hamlin chose the top lane for the final restart on lap 206.

By design, Hamlin pulled down in front of Busch as the cars headed for turn one and held the lead the rest of the way, as Busch, Joey Logano, McDowell, and Erik Jones fought for position behind him. Hamlin crossed the stripe 0.138 seconds ahead of Busch, who was frustrated in his 14th unsuccessful attempt to win the 500.

“When he gave me the top (on the lap 199 restart), 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.”

Denny Hamlin – Joe Gibbs Racing

Busch didn’t regret his decision to let Hamlin drop down in front of him after the overtime restart.

“Strength in numbers. 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.

“But, 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.

“He’s got two. I’ve got none. We just have to move on and go to the next time.”

Kyle Busch – Joe Gibbs Racing

What had been a relative calm race turned chaotic in the late going. After a restart with ten laps left, all hell broke loose as the field approached turn three. Contact from Paul Menard’s No. 21 Ford sent Matt DiBenedetto’s No. 95 Toyota spinning into the outside wall and back across traffic. By the time cars finished wrecking, 21 cars had sustained damage ranging from minor to catastrophic.

DiBenedetto was eliminated from his maiden run in the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota Camry, leaving Menard to do a mea culpa when he exited the infield care center.

“I’m not really sure what happened. 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. 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.”

Paul Menard – Wood Brothers Racing

Two more cautions for multicar wrecks followed before Hamlin could make his decisive two-lap run to the finish and claim the Harley J. Earl trophy for the second time.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – 61st Annual Daytona 500

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Sunday, February 17, 2019

                1. (10)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 207.

                2. (31)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 207.

                3. (28)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 207.

                4. (4)  Joey Logano, Ford, 207.

                5. (34)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 207.

                6. (22)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 207.

                7. (26)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 207.

                8. (21)  Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 207.

                9. (17)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 207.

                10. (36)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 207.

                11. (2)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 207.

                12. (35)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 207.

                13. (5)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 207.

                14. (19)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 207.

                15. (25)  Parker Kligerman(i), Toyota, 205.

                16. (20)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 205.

                17. (18)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Accident, 200.

                18. (32)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, 200.

                19. (38)  BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 200.

                20. (6)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, Accident, 199.

                21. (1)  William Byron, Chevrolet, Accident, 198.

                22. (16)  Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, Accident, 198.

                23. (30)  Brendan Gaughan(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 197.

                24. (27)  Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, Accident, 196.

                25. (12)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 196.

                26. (3)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, Accident, 194.

                27. (39)  Tyler Reddick(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 191.

                28. (9)  Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, Accident, 190.

                29. (7)  Paul Menard, Ford, Accident, 190.

                30. (24)  David Ragan, Ford, Accident, 190.

                31. (14)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, Accident, 190.

                32. (8)  Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 190.

                33. (23)  Daniel Suarez, Ford, Accident, 190.

                34. (29)  Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, Accident, 190.

                35. (11)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, Accident, 190.

                36. (33)  Matt Tifft #, Ford, Accident, 190.

                37. (15)  Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, Accident, 190.

                38. (13)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, Accident, 169.

                39. (37)  Cody Ware #, Chevrolet, Accident, 155.

                40. (40)  Casey Mears, Chevrolet, Accident, 104.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  137.44 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 45 Mins, 55 Secs. The Margin of Victory:  0.138 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  12 for 47 laps.

Lead Changes:  15 among nine drivers.

Lap Leaders:   W. Byron 1-2;R. Stenhouse Jr. 3-6;M. DiBenedetto 7-21;K. Busch 22;R. Stenhouse Jr. 23-34;K. Busch 35-61;J. Logano 62-72;D. Hemric # 73;M. DiBenedetto 74-107;K. Busch 108;R. Blaney 109-121;W. Byron 122-163;J. McMurray 164-169;D. Hamlin 170-190;K. Busch 191-198;D. Hamlin 199-207.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Matt DiBenedetto two times for 49 laps; William Byron two times for 44 laps; Kyle Busch four times for 37 laps; Denny Hamlin two times for 30 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. two times for 16 laps; Ryan Blaney one time for 13 laps; Joey Logano one time for 11 laps; Jamie McMurray one time for six laps; Daniel Hemric # one time for one lap.

Stage #1 Top-Ten: 18,88,22,41,12,11,9,42,4,20

Stage #2 Top-Ten: 12,24,10,2,17,95,4,41,48,22