Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, drove to a dramatic finish in the closest finish recorded at Daytona International Speedway for the Daytona 500 at 0.010 seconds over Martin Truex Jr. giving Toyota its first Daytona 500 win. Hamlin becomes the fifth driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series history to win the Sprint Unlimited and the Daytona 500 in the same season joining Bobby Allison (1982) Bill Elliott (1987), Dale Jarrett (1996, 2000) and Jeff Gordon (1997)
This is the first time Hamlin has won the Daytona 500 and the prestige that comes with winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup series season opener and his seventh consecutive year of leading a lap during The Great American Race. Hamlin led for 95 of the scheduled 200 laps for the race. He has 27 victories in 363 NASCAR Sprint Cup series races.
Hamlin collects the coveted 500 win with his new crew chief Mike Wheeler and is the first driver on the list for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Hamlin finished in the top-5 three of the past four years and gave Joe Gibbs his first Daytona 500 victory in 23 years. The last driver to win for Joe Gibbs Racing was Jarrett in 1993.
“This was a team victory. My teammates did an amazing job all day working together, all the Toyotas,” said Hamlin, of his Joe Gibbs Racing Teammates. “I don’t know where that came from. I can’t even figure out what I did. It just all came together, and I got a great push from the #4 (Kevin Harvick). This wouldn’t have happened without all the Toyotas sticking together. I’m so happy to get this victory for Joe Gibbs Racing.”
JGR Matt Kenseth was leading on the last lap taking the white flag leading from lap 160 to 199, but Hamlin got a run on the outside lane moving from fourth coming off Turn 4 with Kevin Harvick on his bumper, Kenseth moved to block Hamlin, as the #11 Toyota went to the middle of Kenseth and Truex Jr. taking it three wide. Hamlin giving Kenseth the squeeze, as the #20 Toyota turns slightly sideways Kenseth saves it coming out of Turn 4 as Truex Jr. and Hamlin make a mad dash for the finish line bumping and banging through the tri-oval. In a photo finish Hamlin wins by about four inches, using the side draft off Truex Jr. to gain his first Daytona 500 victory.
Toyota swept the top-3 spots with 2015 Sprint Cup Champion Kyle Busch finishing in third. Stewart-Haas Racing Harvick finished fourth with JGR driver Carl Edwards rounding out the top-5. Kenseth who was leading at the white flag was shuffled back to the 14th finishing place.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds of Honor Quik-Trip 500, qualifying for the race will be Friday, February 26 with coverage on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET. Race coverage will be on Fox beginning at 1 p.m. ET.