In a historic finish, Denny Hamlin claimed the 58th running of the Daytona 500 by beating Martin Truex Jr. in a photo finish by just one-hundredth of a second. It was the closest finish for the driver who also led the most laps for the day at 95.
The two cars crossed the finish line simultaneously, and it wasn’t until NASCAR made the official call and the television replayed the finish before most people were certain who had won.
In a true photo finish, Hamlin won Sunday?s race by about four feet and 0.01 of a second, the narrowest margin ever in the Daytona 500 race history.
?I don?t know what happened,? Hamlin said afterward, moments after climbing out of his No. 11 Toyota Camry to a victory in his 11th Daytona 500. ?I can?t figure it out. It?s the pinnacle of my career, for sure. There is no better feeling than I have right now. I didn?t know we had won, but I knew it was close.?
Hamlin just made a last-lap run on teammate Matt Kenseth, who got knocked back given the aerodynamic quirkiness of restrictor-plate racing. Kenseth led from the 160th lap until the final turn of the 200-lap race, where he gave up his position when he moved up the track to block Hamlin. Kenseth got a little loose, dinged Hamlin and briefly touched the wall. He finished 14th and led 40 laps for the day.
Hamlin’s JGR teammates Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards finished third and fifth, respectively. Former Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick was fourth. Last year’s 500 winner Joey Logano was sixth, followed by Kyle Larson in seventh, his best showing in the race to date.
This was an amazing day for the Joe Gibbs Racing team, who won their first Daytona 500 in 23 years.
The JGR team as a whole finished the race near the front, which is what team founder and former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs wanted all along. Hamlin, Busch and Edwards drive for Joe Gibbs Racing, while Truex’s single-car Furniture Row team has a technical alliance with JGR.
Also, it was the first time a driver in a Toyota won the race. Additionally, Toyota Camry race cars captured the top three spots and hogged four of the top five.Toyota joined in the Nascar competition in 2004 and in the Sprint Cup races in 2007. Last year, a Toyota won the Brickyard 400, and a Toyota driver, Kyle Busch, won the Sprint Cup championship.
?This was a team victory,? said Hamlin. ?My teammates did an amazing job all day working together, all the Toyotas. I don’t know where that came from. I can’t even figure out what I did.
The 35-year-old now is in the Chase for the Sprint Cup in his first race with new crew chief Mike Wheeler and finally has a 500. He finished in the top 5 here three of the past four years.