After overtime, two red flag periods, 37 damaged race cars, over four hours, and what ended up being over 500 miles of racing, Denny Hamlin emerged as the victor of the 61st running of the Daytona 500 to capture his second 500 win.
For most of the race, it was pretty mild and smooth. But as per usual, once it got down to about 30 laps to go, everyone patience started to run a little bit thin, and business began to pick up. It seemed like the last 30 laps took as long as, if not longer than, the first 170 laps.
With nine laps to go, as expected, the “Big One” happened, as Paul Menard triggered a massive accident. Over 20 cars were involved in this late race crash, including some favorites entering the race such as Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. Also, feel good story of the day, Matt DiBenedetto, who lead the most laps of the race up to that point, was involved in that crash and could not continue.
After a lengthy red flag period, it only took five more laps before the caution was waving again, this time for a crash involving six cars triggered by Ricky Stenhouse Jr after he got loose. Other cars involved included Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliot, Brad Keselowski, and Alex Bowman. So once again, a crash took out some of the favorites within the last 10 laps.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 17, 2019
You would think that three crashes in the last 10 laps would be enough, well, I guess it wasn’t. The last crash happened with just a lap and a half to go as can be seen below. This one took out even more front runners, as Clint Bowyer got turned and took out a good chunk of the leading cars at the end of the race.
After the clean-up crew took care of that wreck, the field saw the green flag for the last time. Denny Hamlin got out in front of the field and held off late pushes by both Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. And finally, on lap 2017 of what was supposed to only be a 200 lap race, Denny Hamlin saw the checkered flag wave and he took the won on the 61st running of the Daytona 500.
In his post-race interview, Denny Hamlin said that “This one’s for JD”, referring to his team owner Joe Gibbs’ son, JD Gibbs, who worked with the team, who had passed away at the age of 49 recently due to a rare neurological disease. All the Joe Gibbs cars had stickers honoring JD on them. And with three of the four Joe Gibbs Racing cars finishing First, Second, and Third, it was a pretty magical day for Joe Gibbs and his team.
Now that the 500 is in the rear view mirror, it’s time for NASCAR to head into the rest of the regular season, and I think this season is going to be much different than last years. I expect many different winners, including some first-time winners. I’m excited that the season has finally started, and I cannot wait to see how it all pans out.