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


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.

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Denny Hamlin enjoys the ‘win and you’re in’ Chase format (video)

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After qualifying eighth at Talladega Superspeedway, Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin explains why he would rather race for a win than chase points. Hamlin enters Sunday 10th on the Chase grid, six points out of a transfer spot. 

NASCAR Sprint Cup starting lineup for Talladega elimination race

TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 21:  Martin Truex Jr, driver of the #78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hellmann's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 21, 2016 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Jerry Markland/Getty Images
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TALLADEGA, Ala. – Martin Truex Jr. will start from the pole as he looks for his fifth win of the season at Talladega Superspeedway.

Truex will be joined on the front row by Brad Keselowski. The second-place qualifying effort is a career-best for Keselowski at Talladega in 16 starts.

Row two has Matt Kenseth and rookie Chase Elliott.

The Hellmann’s 500 will air NBCSN.

Click here to see the starting lineup for Talladega

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NASCAR executive says points penalty to Martin Truex Jr.’s team ‘would be unlikely’

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — A NASCAR executive says that it would be “unlikely’’ that Martin Truex Jr.’s team faces a points penalty for an improper left front jackscrew but added that officials will “go through our process.’’

Scott Miller, NASCAR vice president of competition, discussed the issue with Truex’s team and with three Joe Gibbs Racing cars Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

NASCAR confiscated the left front jackscrew from Truex’s car in inspection before qualifying. Crew chief Cole Pearn said the team mistakenly used the wrong jackscrew, noting the other corners of the car were correct.

Truex won the pole for Sunday’s race.

Asked about a possible points penalty to Truex’s team, Miller said: “I would say it would be unlikely but it has to go through our process. We don’t typically do that on a weekend. Because it is the playoffs, everyone has a heightened sense of everything. This is no different than things we have done all year, and we will treat this one like we do all year long.’’

Sunday’s race will trim the Chase field from 12 to eight. Although NASCAR typically does not determine penalties until later in the week, questions could remain on who the eight title contenders are if Truex leaves Talladega with a small margin over the first car that fails to advance.

So could NASCAR complete its “process” before the race begins?

“We don’t have any precedent for doing that,’’ Miller said. “We will be circling up and trying to figure out the best way to proceed from this moment forward until (Sunday’s) race.’’

TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 22:  Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 DeWalt Flexvolt Toyota, goes through inspection during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hellmann's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 22, 2016 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth‘s car goes through inspection during qualifying for the Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Miller also said that the cars of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth had to go back to the garage before making their qualifying attempt because the right-rear quarter panels “appeared to have been messed with around the deck lid.’’

Miller said the infraction “wasn’t big, it never is. Again, we pride ourselves in doing a good job. It doesn’t have to be big to be an infraction. It just has to be fair for everybody and that’s what we strive to do.’’

Martin Truex Jr. wins Sprint Cup Series pole at Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. – Martin Truex Jr. will start from the pole at Talladega Superspeedway with a lap of 193.423 mph.

It is Truex’s fourth pole of the season and the 11th of his career. It is also his first pole 24 starts at Talladega. He will lead the field to the green flag alongside Brad Keselowski, who qualified second at 193.365 mph.

“You come here and you don’t really have a whole lot to say as a driver when it comes to qualifying, so obviously proud of the team,” Truex said his pole winner’s press conference. “Everbody in Denver (Colorado), everybody here at the racetrack for their efforts. Built a brand new car to come here and it’s awesome to be the fastest guy in town. Excited about that.”

The top five were Truex, Keselowski, Matt Kenseth (193.189 mph), Chase Elliott (193.166 mph), and Greg Biffle (193.123 mph). Four of those five (Truex, Keselowski, Kenseth, and Elliott) are Chase drivers hoping to advance into the third round of the Chase.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (192.975 mph), Kurt Busch (192.746 mph), Denny Hamlin (192.610 mph), Austin Dillon (192.177 mph), and Paul Menard (192.123 mph) rounded out the top 10.

Click here to see the starting lineup for Talladega

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