‘Denny Hamlin opened up the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season the same way he opened up the 2019 season: winning the Daytona 500.
For the first time since Sterling Marlin won consecutive Daytona 500s back in 1994 and 1995, the “Great American Race” has seen the same winner to open up two NASCAR Cup Series seasons in a row.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin held off Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney in what was the second closest finish in Daytona 500 history to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway for the second consecutive season and the third time in the last five.
The driver of the #11 Toyota became just the fourth driver to win consecutive Daytona 500s, as Richard Petty won two in a row in 1973 and 1974 before Cale Yarborough won two in a row in 1983 and 1984.
The 39-year-old Chesterfield, Virginia native is the sixth driver to win the race at least three times and the first since Jeff Gordon won his third back in 2005. Petty won it seven times, Yarborough won it four times and both Bobby Allison and Dale Jarrett also won it three times.
But Hamlin’s win was marred by a last-lap crash coming to the checkered flag involving Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman, who was the race leader as the finish line neared.
Blaney, running in second place at the time, made slight contact with Newman’s #6 Ford. But that contact was enough to send Newman’s car spinning and up the track before it hit the wall, flipped over and was hit by the #32 Ford of Go Fas Racing’s Corey LaJoie.
Newman is in serious condition, but his injuries are being reported as not life threatening.
Blaney, whose #12 Ford was slowed by the contact, ended up finishing just 0.014 seconds by Hamlin, who catapulted from third to first place just before crossing the finish line after dropping from first to third on the back straightaway before falling in line behind Newman and Blaney.
Roush Fenway Racing’s Chris Buescher finished in third place in his #17 Ford ahead of Rick Ware Racing’s David Ragan in fourth in his #36 Ford in his one-off appearance this year.
Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer helped Ford round out the top six in fifth and sixth place in their #4 Ford and #14 Ford, respectively. The highest finishing Chevrolet driver was Beard Motorsports’ Brendan Gaughan in seventh in his #62 Chevrolet.
LaJoie and Newman crossed the finish line in eighth and ninth place, respectively, ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson in 10th in his #42 Chevrolet.
The race ended up lasting 209 laps, nine above the scheduled distance of 200 as a result of multiple late wrecks, including a few that collected several cars.
Hamlin, who qualified in 21st place, officially started back in 39th after his car failed pre-race inspection twice. The only one of the top eight finishes who started in the top 10 was Harvick, who started in 10th.
The race featured 23 lead changes among 13 leaders, with Hamlin leading more laps than anybody else in the field with 79 laps led. He won stage two after Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott, who led 23 laps, won stage one.
The other race leaders included Blaney, LaJoie, Newman, Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson, Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch.
Keselowski, who led the second highest total of laps in the race with 30, was taken out in the first “Big One” when Logano gave Almirola a shove, sending him into Keselowski’s #2 Ford and causing a 19-car pileup.
Stenhouse led the third highest total of laps in the race with 24, but a late penalty for passing below the double yellow line all but ended his chance to win. He was later involved in a few separate incidents. Of his 24 laps led, 20 came in yesterday’s portion of the race, which featured only 20 laps before rain caused it to be postponed to this afternoon.
The race appeared to be well in the hands of Busch, who was making his 15th start seeking his first victory, but a late engine issue knocked him out of contention. Just 23 drivers finished the race, with 17 doing so on the lead lap.
Here are the full race results of the 2020 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
1st – Denny Hamlin
2nd – Ryan Blaney
3rd – Chris Buescher
4th – David Ragan
5th – Kevin Harvick
6th – Clint Bowyer
7th – Brendan Gaughan
8th – Corey LaJoie
9th – Ryan Newman
10th – Kyle Larson
11th – John Hunter Nemechek
12th – Austin Dillon
13th – Justin Haley
14th – Michael McDowell
15th – Darrell Wallace Jr.
16th – Brennan Poole
17th – Chase Elliott
18th – Erik Jones
19th – Matt DiBenedetto
20th – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
21st – Christopher Bell
22nd – Aric Almirola
23rd – Joey Gase
24th – Alex Bowman
25th – Ross Chastain
26th – Joey Logano
27th – Timmy Hill
28th – Tyler Reddick
29th – Ryan Preece
30th – Ty Dillon
31st – Reed Sorenson
32nd – Martin Truex Jr.
33rd – Kurt Busch
34th – Kyle Busch
35th – Jimmie Johnson
36th – Brad Keselowski
37th – Cole Custer
38th – B.J. McLeod
39th – Quin Houff
40th – William Byron’
-Beyondtheflag.com, 2/17/2020 & Photo by Chris O’Meara/AP