Hamlin wins crash-filled Daytona 500

Daytona 500 'Big One'

Denny Hamlin held off a hard charge from JGR team-mates Kyle Busch and Erik Jones for a NASCAR victory at Daytona on Sunday.

A series of “Big Ones” marred the finish of the Daytona 500, but they paved the way for an emotional victory for Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing.

Hamlin took the outside line for the overtime restart, bolted into the lead and held off a hard charge from JGR team-mates Kyle Busch and Erik Jones, who finished second and third, respectively on Sunday.

Hamlin took the number 11 JGR Toyota to victory lane for his 32 career NASCAR Cup triumph, and his second win in the Daytona 500, and it was a storybook way to honour the late J.D. Gibbs.

Gibbs – a co-founder of Joe Gibbs Racing with his father and legendary former NFL coach Joe Gibbs – died on January 11 after a four-year battle with a degenerative neurological disease.

“We’re desperately going to miss him for the rest of our lives, but his legacy lives on,” Hamlin said.

Overall, the race featured a surprising number of lead and position changes, contrary to pre-race speculation. Previous Speedweeks races at Daytona, including the two Duels on Thursday, featured limited passing and plenty of single-file racing as cars took the high line around the speedway.

But the bottom line on the 2.5-mile track came in early in the Daytona 500, making things interesting.

While there were 12 cautions, the drivers avoided the seemingly inevitable “Big One” until an 18-car crash broke out with 10 laps remaining in regulation.

The incident began when Paul Menard, who was drafting behind Matt DiBenedetto, sent him sideways. DiBenedetto, running fourth, then collected Menard, and the two drivers blocked much of the track, collecting many front runners who had run extremely well all day.

No one was injured in the incident, which involved 18 cars.

After a red flag, the drivers restarted with six laps remaining, and on the next lap, trouble erupted again when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tried to dive between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson, but hit both cars, taking out multiple drivers.

Then, after a restart with two laps remaining, Clint Bowyer and Michael McDowell bumped and collected several other drivers, including Chase Elliott and William Byron.