Denny Hamlin Defends DAYTONA 500 Championship in NASCAR Double-Overtime Finish
·       Becomes Fourth Driver to Win Consecutive DAYTONA 500s

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2020) – Denny Hamlin became the fourth driver to win back-to-back DAYTONA 500s on Monday night, winning the 62nd running of “The Great American Race” in a NASCAR Overtime finish at Daytona International Speedway.

The race resumed Monday afternoon after it was halted on Sunday night with 20 laps completed. It was only the second postponement in DAYTONA 500 history – 2012 was the other.

Hamlin, driving the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota, joined Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95) as consecutive DAYTONA 500 champions. Hamlin also became only the sixth driver to win NASCAR’s premier event at least three times; he also won in 2016.

Hamlin edged Ryan Blaney (No. 12 Menards/Peak Ford) by 0.014 seconds while Chris Buescher (No. 17 Fastenal Ford) finished third. The race was extended to 209 laps, nine past the scheduled 200-lap/500-mile distance, via two “NASCAR Overtimes” caused by late-race incidents.

For Hamlin, the victory continued his emergence as the latest NASCAR Cup Series driver to dominate at Daytona.

“I just feel like I’m a student of the game,” Hamlin said. “I never stop learning and trying to figure out where I need to put myself at the right time.

“It doesn’t always work [but] we’ve defied the odds here in the DAYTONA 500. I just trust my instincts and so far they’ve been good for me. I can’t do it without the car. That’s [enabling me] to make those race-winning moves.”

The race also ended with an incident. On the last lap, Ryan Newman (No. 6 Koch Industries Ford) led on the inside coming to the stripe, getting a push from Blaney. Hamlin was running third on the inside. Suddenly, Newman’s car turned right, into the wall. Seconds later, Newman was hit by Corey LaJoie’s car (No. 32 RagingBull.com Ford). Newman was transported to a local hospital afterward.

“Ryan Newman is being treated at Halifax Medical Center,” Roush Fenway Racing said via a statement. “He is in serious condition, but doctors have indicated his injuries are not life threatening. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers and ask that you respect the privacy of Ryan and his family during this time. We appreciate your patience and cooperation and we will provide more information as it becomes available.”

For Hamlin, the “weekend” continues Tuesday, with the traditional DAYTONA 500 champion’s media tour in New York, a full slate of appearances and interviews that include visits to LIVE! with Kelly & Ryan, FOX New York “The Noon,” the Jim Rome Show, Barstool Breakfast, SiriusXM Radio, CBS Sports Radio and the New York Stock Exchange. Hamlin will also take part in a special satellite media tour on Friday from Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of next week’s NASCAR Cup Series race.

Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota) failed to win his sport’s biggest race for the 15th time. Busch was leading on Lap 183 when his ride developed engine problems. He finished 34th.

“I really hate it for my guys and I really hate it for Joe Gibbs Racing,” Busch said. We’ll just keep figuring out ways to lose [the DAYTONA 500].”

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Ally Chevrolet) raced in the DAYTONA 500 for what could be for the final time, finishing 35th; he is retiring from the NASCAR Cup Series after this season. The two-time DAYTONA 500 champion started sixth after a strong run in one of last week’s two qualifying races. Johnson shares the all-time record of seven NASCAR Cup Series championship with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

Racing resumes at Daytona International Speedway on March 6-15 with another longstanding motorsports tradition – the 79th annual Bike Week At DAYTONA. The bike week schedule is headlined by the 50th annual DAYTONA Supercross on March 7 and the 79th annual DAYTONA 200 on March 14. New this year: pairing the DAYTONA 200 with the popular DAYTONA TT flat-track race for a unique day-night doubleheader.

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang – Finished 2nd

“We pushed Newman there to the lead and then we got a push from the 11. I kind of went low and he blocked that and so I was committed to pushing him to the win and have a Ford win it. I don’t know. We just got the bumpers hooked up wrong and I turned him. I hope he is alright. It looked pretty bad. I was trying to push him to the win. I don’t like saying that things just happen because I feel really bad about it. It was a close one. I just hope Ryan is alright.”

DAVID RAGAN, No. 36 Select Blinds Ford Mustang – Finished 4th

“That was the ugliest fourth place finish I have ever had. I wasn’t disciplined enough in my strategy there with about 15 to go. I felt like things were getting a little hairy and we were 16th or 18th and that is no man’s land here at Daytona. I keyed the radio up going down the back straightaway and said I was going to back off a little. That is when they wrecked. I was pretty mad at myself for not seeing that earlier and getting that damage. Our Front Row Motorsports team with Rick Ware did a good job getting it fixed up. Those last few laps were exciting.”

CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Rush Truck Centers Ford Mustang – Finished 6th 

“That was my opportunity to win, being on the outside in fourth. I don’t know. It is just disappointing. I am frustrated because I felt like I should have been on the outside and not on the inside. That was a game winning decision there, or losing decision on our behalf, and unfortunately it didn’t transpire.”

KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang – Finished 5th

“We did exactly what we wanted to do. We just got a little bit of bumper damage and abandoned stage points to be around at the end to have a chance. We did at the end; we just ran out of pushers. I knew we needed to be fourth on that restart. The bottom wasn’t where we needed to be. We didn’t get a good shove and then everything jumbled up and we were able to get back close to the front. It was a solid night for the Busch Light Ford.”

WERE YOU SURPRISED HAMLIN WAS ABLE TO WIN WITH ALL THE FORDS UP THERE OR WERE THEY JUST NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO GANG UP ON HIM? “We were plenty strong. It is all about timing of the pushes and things like that. In the end, it looked like the 12 wrecked the 6 and that is why the 11 won.”

COREY LAJOIE, No. 32 RagingBull.com Ford Mustang – Finished 8th

 WHAT DID YOU SEE THE LAST LAP?  “The narrative kind of changed a little bit.  I heard he (Newman) went straight to the hospital.  That’s obviously scary.  I got a big push there that last coming to the white.  I don’t know who was pushing me and I kind of stalled out and I don’t know who hooked Newman.  I was hoping he would kind of bounce off the fence to the left, but he didn’t and I hit him.  I don’t know exactly where I hit him.  I haven’t seen a replay.  It was some scary stuff.  Don’t’ get me wrong.  My car was on fire.  My seat belts grabbed all sorts of areas, but it was a good day for us.  I hope Ryan is OK.”

COLE CUSTER, No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang – Finished 37th – “It looks like we had a problem with a gear.  Those things are usually pretty bulletproof.  I don’t know.  It’s tough because we just rode around all day to position ourselves for the end and it just didn’t work out.  We had a good car.  I think we probably were gonna be in contention for a top 10 there, but it just doesn’t always work out sometimes.”

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