Hamlin Wins a Third Daytona 500February 17, 2020
Denny Hamlin won his third Daytona 500 in five years Monday in the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, passing Ryan Blaney in the final stretch to win by 0.014 seconds, the second-closest margin of victory in the “Great American Race.”
Hamlin led a race-high 79 laps, and was leading to start the final two-lap overtime dash to the checkered flag. Ryan Newman and Blaney surged past Hamlin on the backstretch of the final lap, but Hamlin immediately got back to Blaney’s bumper to push back towards the front. Blaney made a move to Newman’s inside while Hamlin went to the outside. Blaney and Newman made contact, sparking a multi-car incident, as Hamlin was able to beat Blaney to the finish line by the nose of his car.
Newman was taken to a local hospital after the scary crash.
“First, my thoughts are with Ryan (Newman) and his well-being,” said Hamlin, whose 2016 margin of victory of 0.010 remains the closest in the race’s 62-year history. “I’m proud of this FedEx team for another great accomplishment, but no win is more important than the health and safety of the competitors.”
The race was postponed after just 20 laps on Sunday due to rain, and it resumed Monday afternoon. Hamlin and his fellow Toyota competitors stuck to the game plan of riding in the back out of harm’s way in Stage 1. Hamlin inherited the lead after varying pit cycles at the end of the Stage. He went on to lead the majority of Stage 2 and captured that segment victory for an additional playoff point.
The action picked up in the final stage, with side-by-side racing throughout the field. A handful of late-race incidents took out many of the frontrunners, but Hamlin was able to avoid the wrecks and remain near the front for the final few restarts.
The win is the 38th of Hamlin’s career, and his third Daytona 500 win makes him just the sixth driver in NASCAR history to hoist the Harley J. Earl Trophy at least three times. He joins Hall of Famers Dale Jarrett (3), Jeff Gordon (3), Bobby Allison (3), Cale Yarborough (4) and Richard Petty (7).
The series returns to action on Sunday, February 23 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.