0.010-Seconds Margin Of Victory Closest In DAYTONA 500 History
· First DAYTONA 500 Victory For Toyota
Denny Hamlin mounted a last-lap charge by taking the outside line on Daytona International Speedway’s famed high banks Sunday, and nipped Martin Truex Jr. by 0.010 seconds to win the 58th annual DAYTONA 500. It was the closest margin of victory in race history since the advent of electronic scoring and gave Toyota its first DAYTONA 500 championship.
Hamlin, driving the No. 11 FedEx Toyota, came out of Turn 4 with serious momentum and benefiting from a strong push from Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet). Hamlin rapidly closed on his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate – Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota) and Truex (No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota) who were running 1-2 on the inside. Kenseth slid over to block but lost control and drifted wider, toward the wall, leaving Hamlin clear to race Truex to the stripe.
“This is the best … I mean, it’s just the best. It’s the biggest race of my life. The Daytona 500 … as a kid it’s what you [dream of winning] – this is the pinnacle of our sport and I’m just proud to be here.”
Another two-time champion, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had become a heavy favorite in the days leading up to the DAYTONA 500, after finishing third-fastest in the original qualifying session and then winning one of Thursday’s Can-Am Duel qualifying races. He started third Sunday and led 15 of the first 100 laps. Fighting an ill-handling car (No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet) throughout the afternoon, he was nonetheless running in the top 10 when he spun out on Lap 170 coming out of Turn 4 and crashed into the inside retaining wall.