The 62nd edition of the annual race at Daytona International Speedway featured a rain delay that pushed it back a day, the Big One occurring with fewer than 20 laps remaining, a head-turning wreck with two laps left to force overtime, a crash on the first overtime restart, and Ryan Newman's car upside down and on fire as the victor crossed the finish line.
Hamlin finished ahead of Ryan Blaney in the second-closest Daytona finish as Newman's car flipped right at the end when he was in position to challenge.
While Hamlin made headlines with the win, concerns about Newman overshadowed the scenes of celebration in the immediate aftermath. The Fox broadcast said he was taken directly to a local hospital after he was taken out of his car, and Roush Fenway Racing provided an update on his status:
Here is a look at how the top 10 shaped up, per NASCAR.com:
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Ryan Blaney
3. Chris Buescher
4. David Ragan
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Clint Bowyer
7. Brendan Gaughan
8. Corey Lajoie
9. Ryan Newman
10. Kyle Larson
Even before the intense finish, there was more urgency than usual to win Stage 1 considering the first 20 laps were already completed Sunday before rain delays pushed the race to Monday.
Pole-sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led the opening 23 laps but couldn't hold his advantage before he was involved in the end of William Byron's day. Contact from his Chevrolet caused Byron to lose control, which led to race-ending damage for the No. 24 car.
Byron said there was "no reason" for the move at that stage of the race:
That cleared the way for Chase Elliott to win Stage 1 over Alex Bowman as well as Aric Almirola, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson, respectively. Johnson battled back from a pit-road penalty during a caution to finish in the top five.
A familiar Daytona face seized the momentum from Elliott in the second stage, as Hamlin, who won last year's opening race, led the majority of the way before clinching the stage win. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver didn't even finish in the top 10 in Stage 1 largely because he started at the back after failing pre-race inspection two different times.
The charge in the second stage put him in position to battle for back-to-back crowns alongside Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Blaney and Stenhouse. They all pulled ahead of Elliott, who was penalized after Martin Truex Jr. hit his fuel can that was stuck on his Chevrolet and fell onto pit lane.
It was a forgettable final stage for Stenhouse, who was penalized for passing below the double line and eventually spun out after contact from Erik Jones. Despite the damage to No. 47, there was no caution to set up what figured to be a dramatic push for the finish.
That push was put on hold when the Big One finally occurred and created a red flag with 16 laps remaining. Johnson, Truex and Keselowski were among those involved, and Busch's chances came to an end when the 2019 series champion went to the garage with engine damage.
It appeared as if Newman would parlay a push from Logano, a fellow Ford driver, into a victory after the green flag on Lap 191, but multiple crashes disrupted that plan.
A wreck between Ryan Sorenson and Timmy Hill led to a caution and potential sprint to the finish upon a restart with four laps remaining, but Ross Chastain attempted to make a move under Ryan Preece with two laps remaining and caused another crash that involved Logano and Elliott.
It set the tone for overtime, which started with a crash between Michael McDowell and Clint Bowyer on the first restart and ended with Newman's car on fire and Hamlin crossing the line.
Hamlin will look to parlay the momentum into another impressive performance at the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.