Denny Hamlin Pushes Teammate Erik Jones to Victory in Busch Clash

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 09: Erik Jones, driver of the #20 Sport Clips Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Busch Clash at Daytona International Speedway on February 09, 2020, in Daytona Beach, Florida Photo – Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Denny Hamlin couldn’t win the Busch Clash at Daytona for himself, but he made sure his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate did.

For nearly the entire final lap in the third attempt at overtime, Hamlin pushed the mangled Toyota of Erik Jones all the way to finish line in a race that saw only six of 18 cars running at the finish.

With the nose of his car caved in and held together with tape, Jones led only the final lap—the 88th of the race and the 13th of overtime—in collecting his first victory in the season-opening NASCAR Cup Series exhibition race.

Jones’ No. 20 Toyota Camry sustained heavy damage during a spate of wrecks that started on lap 66 of a scheduled 75 and continued into the extra circuits. Hamlin, whose No. 11 Toyota was damaged in the lap 66 and spun with a flat tire in the first overtime attempt, lost two laps on pit road after the incident.

But Hamlin’s car was still running at the finish, and he was there to push Jones past the lead-lap cars of Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer on the last circuit.

“I knew he was going to be in for a ride,” Hamlin said. “It was just a matter of whether he could handle it… “I knew that last lap he needed to strap in because I was going to push him. I didn’t care if I pushed him into a wreck—I was going to push him.”

That’s exactly what Jones did, even though his battered machine looked more like a refugee from a salvage yard than the sleek race car that started the race.

“It was an awesome race,” Jones said. “I’ve got to give a huge thanks to Denny. He gave us a huge push that last run. It wasn’t the fastest car in the race, but we brought it home.

“I think, honestly, it was so draggy it wasn’t too much for him to lock on and push us to the win. Hopefully, next Sunday (in the Daytona 500) we can cap off another one.”

Five drivers have completed a Clash/Daytona 500 double. Hamlin accomplished the feat most recently, in 2016.

By the time Dillon led the field to green to start the third overtime on lap 87, 11 cars already had gone to the garage in various stages of disrepair. The mayhem began on lap 66 when Joey Logano tried to block Kyle Busch in turn four and contact between their two cars triggered a six-car crash that eliminated Busch and Brad Keselowski, Logano’s Team Penske teammate.

Six laps later, the majority of the field wrecked on a restart, when the ‘accordion effect’ produced a chain-reaction incident near the start/finish line.

The first two overtime attempts pared the field to six cars on the track, with Dillon coming home second, 0.697 seconds behind Jones. Bowyer was third, followed by Kyle Larson, who held the lead briefly in the final overtime but lost ground on the final lap.

Newman came home fifth, followed by Hamlin, who finished one lap down.

NASCAR Cup Series Race – 42nd Annual Busch Clash At Daytona

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Sunday, February 9, 2020

                1. (12)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 88.

                2. (15)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 88.

                3. (6)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, 88.

                4. (4)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 88.

                5. (1)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 88.

                6. (18)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 87.

                7. (11)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Accident, 82.

                8. (14)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, Accident, 78.

               9. (13)  Joey Logano, Ford, Accident, 78.

                10. (5)  Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 77.

                11. (16)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Accident, 77.

                12. (17)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 77.

                13. (10)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, Accident, 77.

                14. (7)  William Byron, Chevrolet, Accident, 74.

                15. (8)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Accident, 74.

                16. (3)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, Accident, 72.

                17. (2)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 66.

                18. (9)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 65.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  134.9 mph.

Time of Race:  One Hr, 37 Mins, 51 Secs. The Margin of Victory:  0.697 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  Five for 21 laps.

Lead Changes:  14 among 11 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   R. Newman 1-2;M. Truex Jr. 3-9;B. Keselowski 10-24;R. Newman 25-28;B. Keselowski 29-46;W. Byron 47-50;K. Larson 51-52;C. Elliott 53-56;A. Bowman 57-58;J. Logano 59-65;D. Hamlin 66-77;C. Elliott 78-80;A. Dillon 81-86;R. Newman 87;E. Jones 88.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Brad Keselowski two times for 33 laps; Denny Hamlin one time for 12 laps; Martin Truex Jr. one time for seven laps; Joey Logano one time for seven laps; Ryan Newman three times for seven laps; Chase Elliott two times for seven laps; Austin Dillon one time for six laps; William Byron one time for four laps; Kyle Larson one time for two laps; Alex Bowman one time for two laps; Erik Jones one time for one lap.