When the white flag flew at Sunday’s Daytona 500, Denny Hamlin was in fourth place seemingly boxed in by other contenders on his right. Somehow, he made it to the front to win the closest 500 in history.
Hamlin’s edged Martin Truex, Jr. by one one-hundredth of a second, or about four inches. The top six finishers were all less than one-tenth of a second apart.
As Hamlin pulled out of line, he surged toward leader Matt Kenseth, who tried to block on the outside. Hamlin moved toward the middle and Kenseth was unable to respond. Kenseth would wind up in the 14th position.
“I don’t know where that came from; I don’t know what happened,” said a jubilant Hamlin from Victory Lane. “I can’t even figure out what I did, but it all came together.”
Behind Truex was Kyle Busch in third, Kevin Harvick in fourth and Carl Edwards in fifth. Pole sitter Chase Elliott lost control on the 15th lap and spun into the infield, damaging his car. He finished in the 37th position, 40 laps behind.
Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had a strong car, but crashed 31 laps from the finish and came in 36th. Defending Daytona 500 champion Joey Logano was sixth. Former UCF student Aric Almirola of Tampa finished 12th.
There were 20 lead changes among 15 different drivers. Hamlin had the strongest car all day, leading 95 of the race’s 200 laps. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kenseth led for 40 laps.
The race is well known for multi-vehicle pileups, but this race was calm by that standard. There were six caution flags for 31 laps, but the end-of-race demolition derby did not occur.
Hamlin’s victory was his first at Daytona in 11 tries. He will try to run his winning streak to two at next week’s Folds Of Honor Quiktrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.