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- Victory comes month after death of team’s co-owner, JD Gibbs
- Only 14 cars finish race after smashes take out most of field
Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500 for the second time in four years, leading a 1-2-3 sweep for Joe Gibbs Racing. The victory on Sunday was a fine tribute to JD Gibbs, who died last month after battling a degenerative neurological disease. JD Gibbs co-founded the race team with his father and discovered Hamlin. Hamlin said when he arrived at Daytona International Speedway that both the 500 and this season were dedicated to JD Gibbs.
Kyle Busch finished second and Erik Jones was third as the Gibbs drivers held off Ford driver and reigning Nascar champion Joey Logano’s frantic push in overtime.
The race was stopped twice for nearly 40 minutes for a flurry of late accidents. There were five wrecks in the final 20 laps of regulation and only 14 cars finished on the lead lap. Paul Menard triggered the biggest wreck, a 21-car crash shortly after a restart with 10 laps to go. Menard turned Matt DiBenedetto, who slammed into the wall and started a chain-reaction that collected more than two dozen cars. It brought out a red flag that stopped the race for a lengthy cleanup. Menard admitted he was responsible: “I’ll take the blame for that one.” Defending Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez were among those involved in the mess. Almirola seemingly had the wildest ride, his back wheels getting lifted off the pavement and landing on David Ragan’s windshield.Advertisement
Logano was fourth, followed by Michael McDowell. Ty Dillon was sixth in the highest-finishing Chevrolet. Hamlin last year suffered through his first winless season in the Cup Series and made a crew chief change during the offseason. When he won the 500 in 2016 it was his debut race with crew chief Mike Wheeler, and this victory came in his first race with Chris Gabehart.