Denny Hamlin Wins Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 17: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, crosses the finish line winduring the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 61st Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season was officially back yesterday with the Daytona 500. With the Clash and Duel races this past week, fans saw unusual racing at Daytona. Drivers were filing in along the top of the track and racing single file. The question was left to be as answered as to how Sunday ’s premiere race was to be run.

As the pole sitter, William Byron led the first couple laps, but the bottom lane stayed organized to allow Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to rally back and take the lead. Most of the Ford racers took an early pit stop under the green flag. Shortly after, there was a caution involving Corie Lajoie.

The remaining cars who did not pit under green flag came in under the caution. The race ran green up until eleven laps left in the stage when Kurt Busch moved down the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. creating a wreck with Jamie McMurray and Darrell Wallace Jr as the other notable drivers involved in the wreck. After the race leaders came down pit road for servicing, Kyle Busch came out of the caution as the race leader. He would end up winning stage one.

Joey Logano became the leader coming out of the stage one break. Once again, most Ford drivers came down pit road early in the stage as DiBenedetto retook the race lead. With fourteen laps left in the stage, another caution came out involving Casey Mears. DiBenedetto and the leaders took pit stops. Ryan Blaney became the race leader and won the second stage of the race.

After the pit stops between stages, William Byron took the lead. With 52 laps left in the race, multiple drivers attempted to come down pit road under the green flag. A wreck ensued as Jimmie Johnson was affected. Jamie McMurray and Denny Hamlin were on the front row for the restart and Hamlin quickly overcame McMurray.

A few minor cautions occurred involving Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski, however, the ‘Big One’ occurred with only nine laps left. Paul Menard and Matt DiBenedetto created contact and multiple drivers were caught up in the wreckage.

The wrecking was not over as two more cations occurred. With six laps left Stenhouse tried to make a move on Keselowski. This forced move caused both drivers to wreck. Immediately after, Michael McDowell and Clint Bowyer spun around as Bowyer was making his move into the second position. The final restart was a clean one, however. Denny Hamlin shot out to the lead and everyone became disorganized behind him. Kyle Busch and Joey Logano moved behind Hamlin in the lead. Coming around to the checker flag, Busch and Logano tried making their move for the win. Denny Hamlin was not to be dealt with as he fended them off for the big win.

It was surely an entertaining Dayton 500. Big concerns going into the race was whether the bottom lane would be able to stay organized and be competitive during the race. Both lanes were actually very competitive against one another for most of the race. In the Truck and Xfintiy race, the bottom line could not stay together and make runs.

There were a lot of forced mistakes as well that could have been avoided. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. pushed the envelope twice and ruined races for Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski. Especially late in the race when Stenhouse took out Keselowski. Regardless, this aggressive racing is what makes racing fun. It would not be a superspeedway race without pushing the envelope and causing important wrecks.

It was a solid win for Denny Hamlin and the Joe Gibbs Racing team. A meaningful win after the tragic passing of JD Gibbs over the offseason. This season is leaving everyone on edge as to how this new racing package will run. Next weekend’s race will be held at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.