Denny Hamlin held off reigning Cup Series champion Joey Logano and teammate Kyle Busch to win the 61st Daytona 500 on Sunday. It’s the second career win for Hamlin in The Great American Race. Hamlin won a race that, for the most part, was a clean one until chaos ensued with less than 10 laps to go.
Hamlin was coming off his first winless season and faced pressure within Joe Gibbs Racing with a new crew chief and Christopher Bell rising through the ranks. That didn’t phase Hamlin, as he blocked both Logano and Busch in overtime to take the checkered flag.
The No. 11 driver dedicated the win to the late-J.D. Gibbs, who died in January at the age of 49 after a four-year battle with degenerative neurological disease. J.D., the son of team owner and Super Bowl winning coach Joe Gibbs, served as president of Joe Gibbs Racing from 1997 to 2015.
Hamlin tweeted this after J.D.’s death.
This is the second straight year where the Daytona 500 had a connection to someone that passed. Last year, Austin Dillon took the checkered flag in the No. 3, made famous by Dale Earnhardt Sr., 20 years after Earnhardt won his first and only career Great American Race.
As Hamlin led the race, behind him Paul Menard and Matt DiBenedetto made contact, initiating a pile-up that involved more than half the field with less than 10 laps to go. Notables involved included Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola, who both had a shot to win the race last year.
The carnage was so massive that NASCAR was forced to throw the red flag for track clean-up and to address the running order. It took nearly 30 minutes before transitioning back to yellow.
It didn’t take nearly as long to get back to yellow once we went green. Just as the field approached five to go, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got loose and collected six cars including Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman.
The field then lined up for a green, white checkered finish but before we could get the white flag — just as Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin were racing side-by-side — Clint Bowyer made an aggressive move from the sixth position and caused another big wreck. William Byron and Elliott took the brunt of it. This one sent the race to overtime, but not before another red flag.
Hamlin would go on to restart, take the lead and never give it back in overtime, winning the race at 10-to-1 odds. Luckily for the folks out in Las Vegas, Michael McDowell (fifth place) and Ty Dillon (sixth place) didn’t win the race. SuperBookUSA had Dillon at 100-to-1 and McDowell at 80-to-1. If Dillon had won, bookmakers would have had to pay out $10,000 on a $100 bet.