Denny Hamlin won in the closest finish in Daytona 500 history, pushing Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth out of the way in Turn 4 and edging out Martin Truex Jr. at the finish line by 0.01 seconds on Sunday—securing his victory by mere inches.
Fox Sports Live shared a replay in slow-motion of Hamlin narrowly pushing past Truex on the outside, coming to the checkers to give Toyota its first win in the Great American Race:
And here is an aerial view of the finish in live time, courtesy of Jay Busbee of Yahoo Sports:
Here are the final results:
|Finish||Driver||Time Behind (Seconds)|
|2||Martin Truex Jr.||0.011|
|22||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||1.150|
|32||Casey Mears||1 lap|
|33||Clint Bowyer||1 lap|
|34||Greg Biffle||2 laps|
|35||Danica Patrick||16 laps|
|36||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||31 laps|
|37||Chase Elliott||40 laps|
|38||Robert Richardson||65 laps|
|39||Chris Buescher||109 laps|
|40||Matt DiBenedetto||109 laps|
Ryan McGee of ESPN.com noted the finish was eerily similar to the first Daytona 500 in 1959 that required photo review before NASCAR awarded the win to Lee Petty:
Wow. Closest #DAYTONA500 finish ever. Reminiscent of inaugural 1959 finish. So close I thought Truex had it. He didn't. Hamlin did.— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) February 21, 2016
Nascarcasm shared a GIF of Hamlin dancing in a nod to his first career Daytona 500 win—which was particularly sweet given the veteran has tallied three top-five finishes in this event in the past four years:
Busbee credited Kenseth for saving his No. 20 Toyota and not creating a massive pileup at the front of the field when attempting to block Hamlin in the final turn:
It's not much comfort to him now, but Kenseth's exceptional driving after taking the bump from the 11 saved a HUGE wreck.— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) February 21, 2016
The contact between the Joe Gibbs Racing teammates led to significant body damage on Kenseth’s machine, as Geoffrey Miller of Athlon Sports shared:
This is the damage from Kenseth's contact with Hamlin in Turn 4. pic.twitter.com/AJ7DTbYtuW— Geoffrey Miller (@GeoffreyMiller) February 21, 2016
Kenseth gave his assessment of how the climax played out in a post-race interview with Fox:
I saw Denny had the run. I really felt like he was going fast enough he was going to go around me if I didn’t block him. I tried to get in front of him and get some momentum, couldn’t do it and he just got me turned sideways there and I had to get back out of the gas. Safe bet would’ve been staying about him and finishing second with the momentum he had, but we’re here to try to win the Daytona 500—went for it and came up short.
David Todd of ESPN Pittsburgh and NASCAR telecaster Ralph Sheheen gave Kenseth kudos for how he handled his post-race interview immediately following such a disappointment in going for his third Daytona 500 win:
Great stand up job by Matt Kenseth to get interviewed in pit lane after going from 1st to about 14th on the last turn of Daytona 500.— David Todd (@DavidMTodd) February 21, 2016
Raul Martinez of Fox 31 made a quip about how Kenseth is probably feeling after losing the lead in the final turn and finishing 14th:
In his interview with Fox, Truex added he thought he had the race won.
"I did all I thought I could do … [Hamlin] just side-drafted me, and I probably should’ve run him up a little bit more, but I thought we were close enough that I could keep that foot or so,” Truex said on pit road. "But I couldn’t. I lost it in the last second.”
Truex also delivered arguably the best quote of Speedweeks, per Busbee:
Martin Truex Jr.: "I'm going to have to watch that on a highlight reel for the rest of my life."— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) February 21, 2016
ESPN personalities who don’t even cover NASCAR also chimed in with their impressions, including college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit and MLB Insider Buster Olney:
Daytona 500 finish. Crazy.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) February 21, 2016
Pole-sitter Chase Elliott was in a good position to go to Victory Lane in his first Daytona 500 but was plagued by a Lap 28 crash that sent him barreling through the infield. Elliott took significant damage to the front end of his No. 24 Chevrolet, as shown by NASCAR:
Elliott said in an in-race interview with Fox that Daytona should get rid of its infield grass: "I didn't hit anything. All I did was go through the grass, got the nose ripped off. I know there were many other cars that went through the same thing. … My opinion, grass belongs on golf courses. We need asphalt around here to slow the cars down, control the cars."
Hamlin entered Sunday as one of the top drivers on the circuit despite no championships or Daytona 500 victories to claim. Now that he’s scratched off one major milestone and all but locked up a spot in the Chase, look for the veteran to make a serious run at the Sprint Cup title in his 11th full season.