DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — New year, another Denny Hamlin win in the Daytona 500.
And Joe Gibbs still has the team to beat in NASCAR.
Hamlin won his third Daytona 500 on Monday, becoming the first driver since Sterling Marlin in 1995 to win “The Great American Race” in consecutive seasons. His win last year was a 1-2-3 sweep for Joe Gibbs Racing and kicked off a yearlong company celebration in which Gibbs drivers won a record 19 races and the Cup championship.
The post-race scene this year was somewhat subdued out of concern for Ryan Newman, who was wrecked as the leader and crossed the finish line with his car on its roof, engulfed in flames.
Hamlin joined six Hall of Fame drivers as winners of three or more Daytona 500s. He tied Dale Jarrett — who gave JGR its first Daytona 500 win in 1993 — Jeff Gordon and Bobby Allison. Hamlin trails Cale Yarborough’s four wins and the record seven by Richard Petty.
This victory came after just the second rain postponement in 62 years, a visit from President Donald Trump, a pair of red flag stoppages and two overtimes. As he went door-to-door with Ryan Blaney for the finish — the 0.014 margin of victory was the second closest in race history — Newman took a wild ride along the track when he was crashed trying to hold onto the lead.
Newman’s condition was not immediately known as safety workers rolled his car back onto its wheels before he was removed. Newman was taken by ambulance to a hospital.
It made for a somber victory lane.
“I think we take for granted sometimes how safe the cars are and number one, we are praying for Ryan,” Hamlin said.
Runner-up Blaney said the way the final lap shook out, with Newman surging ahead of Hamlin, that Blaney locked in behind Newman in a move of brand alliance for Ford.
“We pushed Newman there to the lead and then we got a push from the 11 … I was committed to just pushing him to the win and having a Ford win it and got the bumpers hooked up wrong. It looked bad,” he said.
Hamlin had eight Ford drivers lined up behind him as the leader on the second overtime shootout without a single fellow Toyota driver in the vicinity to help him. It allowed Newman to get past him for the lead, but the bumping in the pack led to Newman’s hard turn right into the wall, followed by multiple rolls and a long skid across the finish line.