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Hamlin Wins the Daytona 500

February 22, 2016

Denny Hamlin, driving the #11 FedEx Toyota won the closest Daytona 500 in history by beating Martin Truex Jr. to the line by a less than a foot on Sunday.

On the last lap, Hamlin pulled out of line and got a shove from behind by Kevin Harvick that allowed him to chase down Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth and Truex. As the leaders entered Turn 3, Kenseth tried to protect his lead and moved up, but Hamlin turned left and dove between Kenseth and Truex. As Kenseth faded on the outside, Hamlin stayed in the gas and battled door-to-door with Truex, beating him to the line by a scant 0.010 seconds.

“This is the biggest race of my life, the Daytona 500 is the pinnacle of our sport and I’m just proud to be here,” said Hamlin. “This is a team victory, my teammates did an amazing job all day working together – all the Toyotas. This is for everyone at FedEx and Toyota. I don’t know what happened. I can’t even figure out what I did, but it all just came together.”

Hamlin led 94 of the first 155 laps before coming to pit road for a green-flag pit stop with 45 laps to go. The plan was to change right-side tires, but Hamlin slid the tires entering his pit box and crew chief Mike Wheeler had to call a quick audible to change all four tires. The miscue placed Hamlin back to seventh in the running order. As the laps clicked, Hamlin kept fighting and with 10 laps to go he was up to fourth, allowing him to make his race winning last lap move.

The victory all but guarantees a Chase berth for Hamlin, who has made the NASCAR playoffs in nine of 10 seasons dating back to his 2006 rookie campaign.

Hamlin leaves Daytona atop the NASCAR standings as the Sprint Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for an event on February 28.