Denny Hamlin beat Martin Truex Jr. to win Sunday’s 58th Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, giving Toyota its first victory in NASCAR’s biggest race and Joe Gibbs Racing its first since 1993.
It was the closest finish in Daytona 500 history, with Hamlin winning by 0.01 seconds. Kyle Busch was third in another JGR entry, giving Toyota the top three spots.
Here are five keys to his victory in the Daytona 500.
5. It takes a fast car — All through Speedweeks, the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas were wicked fast and that continued in the Daytona 500, where the team drubbed the competition for virtually the entire race. JGR won the Sprint Unlimited, one Can-Am Duel and the big prize on Sunday.
They were the class of the field by a wide margin, combining to lead 154 of 200 laps.
4. Be there at the end — Rookie pole-sitter Chase Elliott learned an important lesson: You can’t win the Daytona 500 in the first 50 miles, but you can lose it. A spin in Turn 4 on Lap 19, send Elliott spinning through the infield grass, which tore his splitter off.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., the pre-race favorite, crashed out in an nearly identical incident to Elliott’s, but with 30 laps to go.
3. Have wingmen — With all four JGR Toyotas up front, the team managed to control the race and keep the competition from getting to the lead and challenging for the victory. And that was a huge help when the race went down to the wire, because it was all Toyotas fighting for the victory.
2. Stay out front — The current NASCAR restrictor-plate aero package gives the leader a huge advantage, so you want to get out front as soon as possible. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead on Lap 4, with Hamlin and Logano right behind. Clearly, the lead pack was the place to be, and it stayed that way all race long.
Conversely, once Earnhardt fell back in the back, he never got back to the front for the rest of the race.
1. Time your move. — In winning his first Daytona 500, Hamlin timed his move perfectly, waiting until the very last lap to jump to the outside and make a bold move by his teammate Matt Kenseth. "I don’t know what happened," said a jubilant Hamlin, who drove the No. 11 Toyota to victory in his 11th Daytona 500. "I can’t figure it out."
"They don’t get more crushing than that," said Kenseth.