Denny Hamlin holds off Martin Truex Jr. to earn closest win in Daytona 500 history

9 Comments

Denny Hamlin held off Martin Truex Jr. to win Sunday’s 58th Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway by .01 of a second, the closest finish in the history of the Great American Race since the advent of electronic timing and scoring.

Truex looked like he might win, but Hamlin surged just before the start-finish line to take the checkered flag. It was Hamlin’s first career win in 11 starts in the 500, and also the first win with new crew chief Mike Wheeler.

“This is the best,” Hamlin said in victory lane. “I mean, it’s just the best. It’s the biggest race of my life. The Daytona 500. This is the pinnacle of our sport and I’m just proud to be here.”

Truex finished second, followed by defending Sprint Cup champ Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards in fifth.

“I did all I could do,” Truex said. “I’m really proud of that effort. He just side-drafted me. I probably should have run (Hamlin) up a little more. I lost it at the last second.”

Sixth through 10th were defending 500 winner Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Regan Smith, Austin Dillon and Kurt Busch.

Matt Kenseth led heading into the final lap, but Hamlin got a strong run on the backstretch. Kenseth tried to block his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, bumped fenders with Hamlin’s car, and was forced to back off to avoid wrecking.

Kenseth, who was hoping for his third Daytona 500 win, finished 14th.

Hamlin led the most laps (95) of the 200-lap event, followed by Kenseth’s 40 laps, Kyle Busch’s 19 laps, Jimmie Johnson (18) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (15).

Earnhardt was involved in a hard wreck on Lap 169 and finished 36th, one spot ahead of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series DAYTONA 500

HOW HAMLIN WON: The driver of the No. 11 Toyota was running fourth when the final lap began. He got a great push from Kevin Harvick, muscled his way past Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth, who tried to block him, and then got a late surge coming down the frontstretch to beat Truex to the finish line. Hamlin becomes only the fifth driver in NASCAR history to win both the Sprint Unlimited and the Daytona 500 in the same edition of Speedweeks. The others to do so were Bobby Allison (1982), Bill Elliott (1987), Dale Jarrett (1996 and 2000) and Jeff Gordon in 1997

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Furniture Row Racing switched from Chevrolet to Toyota this year for Martin Truex Jr., as well as established a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. As a result, JGR essentially had four drivers in the top five: Hamlin, Truex, Kyle Busch and Edwards. … Kyle Busch scored a top-five finish after missing this race a year ago when he was injured in the Xfinity race the day before the 500. … Regan Smith, who spun early in the race, finished eighth for his third top-10 in his last five Daytona 500 starts.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: One of the favorites to win, Dale Earmhardt Jr., wrecked on Lap 169. Earnhardt’s car got loose and hit the retaining wall coming off Turn 4. “It caught me by surprise there,” Earnhardt told Fox Sports. “We were starting to move forward, getting aggressive and yeah, I just lost it.” … Pole sitter Chase Elliott spun into the infield grass on Lap 19, suffering splitter and right side damage. He had to be towed back to the garage. He returned to the track on Lap 60 after repairs were made.  … On Lap 183, Danica Patrick and Greg Biffle tangled, with Patrick’s car suffering heavy damage. She ultimately went to the garage on Lap 186 and finished 35th. … The day ended early on Lap 92 for Matt DiBenedetto and 2015 Xfinity Series champ Chris Buescher, who wrecked together, with both cars suffering heavy damage. Buescher finished 39th, DiBenedetto last in the 40-car field.

NOTABLE: Hamlin gave team president J.D. Gibbs perhaps his greatest birthday present. Gibbs, who has battled health issues the last year, turned 47 on Sunday. … Brian Vickers, replacing the injured Tony Stewart, was involved in a wreck but came back to finish 26th.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I don’t know where that came from, I don’t know what happened, I can’t even figure out what I did, but it all just came together.” – said Denny Hamlin, who shed tears as he held his longtime girlfriend and their baby daughter.

WHAT’S NEXT: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 on Sunday, Feb. 28, at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Alex Tagliani wins Xfinity Series pole at Road America

LEXINGTON, OH - AUGUST 14: Alex Tagliani, driver of the #22 Discount Tires Ford, drives during practice for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Nationwide Children's Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 14, 2015 in Lexington, Ohio. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Jeff Curry/Getty Images
1 Comment

Alex Tagliani will start from the pole at Road America after a lap of 109.866 mph in Xfinity Series qualifying on Friday night. It was Tagliani’s fourth career pole in his eighth start.

Tagliani enters the Road America 180 looking for his first career NASCAR win. He will lead the field to the green flag alongside Michael McDowell, who qualified second at 109.591 mph. McDowell is driving the No. 2 for Richard Childress Racing.

Tagliani credited crew chief Greg Erwin with helping him achieve the pole lap.

“Greg did some fine-tuning changes just to make the car a little bit less tight, it was the right call,” Tagliani told NBCSN. “It’s a good day for the No. 22 Discount Tire team and a good day for the No. 22 as Joey (Logano) is on the pole in Michigan. It’s a good day for Team Penske.”

The top five were Tagliani, McDowell, Justin Marks (109.196 mph), Owen Kelly (109.129 mph), and Daniel Suarez (108.644 mph). Marks is the most recent road course winner, having captured his first career win two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio.

There were two incidents during qualifying, both in the first round, which brought out red flags.

Alon Day, making his second Xfinity Series start, went off track and was stuck in the gravel in Turn 12. Day did not complete a lap and will start 40th on Saturday afternoon.

The second red flag was for rookie Josh Bilicki. He spun and crashed into the tire barriers in Turn 1, resulting in heavy damage to the right side of the No. 77. Bilicki had clocked in 23rd fastest at 107.092 mph at the time of the accident.

Here is how qualifying played out:

N1623_QUALRES-page-001

N1623_QUALRES-page-002

Follow @KellyCrandall

Sprint Cup starting lineup at Michigan International Speedway

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 26:  Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 26, 2016 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Jerry Markland/Getty Images
1 Comment

Joey Logano will attempt to complete the season sweep of Michigan International Speedway on Sunday. Just as he did in June, Logano will start on the pole in the Pure Michigan 400. The No. 22 was the only Ford to qualifying in the top five.

Kevin Harvick, seeking his second consecutive win, will start fourth. Alex Bowman, driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88, starts sixth.

The 200-lap race can be seen on NBCSN, beginning with Countdown to Green at 1:30 p.m. ET.

C1624_STARTROW-page-001

Follow @KellyCrandall

Joey Logano earns Sprint Cup Series pole at Michigan

1 Comment

Joey Logano won the pole by posting the fastest time in the third round of Sprint Cup Series qualifying on Friday at Michigan International Speedway with a lap of 201.698 mph. It was Logano’s third pole at Michigan and his third of the season, which ties him for the second in the series this season.

The Team Penske driver enters the Pure Michigan 400 as the most recent winner at Michigan, having won from the pole in June. He will lead the field to the green flag alongside Jimmie Johnson, who posted a lap of 201.523 mph.

“I hope so, track position is a big deal here,” Logano told NBCSN of following up his June performance. “That pit stall number one is a big deal as well, so being able to give our pit crew the advantage of trying to keep the track position throughout the race is going to be key. Obviously, this race turns into a strategy fest but awesome for our Shell/Pennzoil team to get another pole here.”

The top five were Logano, Johnson, Denny Hamlin (201.416 mph), Kevin Harvick (201.382 mph), and Chase Elliott (201.303 mph).

With his third-place qualifying effort, Hamlin will have started in the top 10 in the last 22 races. That is the longest streak by a driver since Mark Martin went 22 straight between 1988-1989.

With Johnson second, Elliott fifth, Alex Bowman (in for Dale Earnhardt Jr.) sixth and Kasey Kahne 11th, it marks only the second time this season that all four Hendrick Motorsports cars have started in the top 12. The only other time that happened was at Talladega in May.

Here is how qualifying played out:

C1624_QUALRES-page-001

C1624_QUALRES-page-002

Follow @KellyCrandall

Tyler Reddick fastest in final Truck Series practice at Michigan

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 26:  Ben Rhodes, driver of the #41 Carolina Nut Co. Toyota, and Tyler Reddick, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Careers for Veterans Ford, drive during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Careers for Veterans 200 at Michigan International Speedway on August 26, 2016 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Jerry Markland/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tyler Reddick was fastest in the final practice session at Michigan International Speedway on Friday with a lap of 185.735 mph.

Reddick was followed by Brett Moffitt (185.577 mph), Johnny Sauter (185.395 mph), Daniel Hemric (185.285 mph), and Rico Abreu (185.204 mph).

Ben Rhodes was 12th fastest in the session at 184.615 mph but suffered an engine issue in his No. 41 Toyota. The ThorSport team spent the second half of practice changing the motor ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session.

Here are the speeds from final practice:

T1614_PRACFINAL-page-001

Follow @KellyCrandall