NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin (11) won the 58th Daytona 500 race on February 21, 2016 at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida.
Hamlin, 35, skillfully beat out a fellow Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. (78) by 0.010 seconds, the smallest difference in Daytona history.
Freshman Nidhi Salian said, “When I saw the replay of the last lap, I was really shocked at how close of a finish it was. Denny Hamlin won by less than half a second, which I think is pretty impressive. After his multiple tries at Daytona, this one really proved to be his best. The way he executed his maneuvers and moves showed how good of a racer he really is.”
Hamlin’s amazing win was the first out of his 10 tries at Daytona 500, and it was Toyota’s first win as well. The victory was the second one for Hamlin’s team, Joe Gibbs Racing, since Dale Jarrett’s win in 1993.
Two other Joe Gibbs Racing team members, Kyle Busch (18) and Carl Edwards (19), joined Hamlin in the top five. Busch ended up in third place and Edwards finished in fifth place, giving the team a total of three finishes in the top five spots.
Hamlin started his FedEx Express Toyota Camry from the 11th position and drove his way to second place in the 18 laps prior to the first caution on lap 20. He restarted in the top spot on lap 24 and maintained his lead until the next caution at lap 58.
Caution laps are marked by a yellow flag and are held when an accident or debris on the course make driving conditions more dangerous for racers. When drivers see a yellow flag, they have to slow down to line up behind the pace car and drive cautiously around the track until a green flag is shown, meaning they can continue.
During the race, the whole team was geared toward helping their teammate, Matt Kenseth (20), achieve victory because he was in first place for the start of the last lap. Intent on aiding Kenseth, Hamlin tried to block an attempt to move ahead from Kevin Harvick (4) in the last few moments, and he was hit from the side.
He gained acceleration from the bump and shot up to second place, wedging between Truex Jr. and Kenseth. This move caused Kenseth to drift back due to lost momentum, where he would finish in 14th, but it won the race for Hamlin.
Freshman Serena Patel said, “I think motivation and confidence allowed Denny Hamlin to win his first Daytona 500 this year. Without these things, in addition to support from all of his teammates, I don’t think his victory could have been possible. Also, the fact that he led for 95 laps really shows his improvement from when he started racing.”
The race was 200 laps around the racetrack, or about 500 miles. Hamlin led the race for 95 of the 200 laps, and he gained 45 points in total, 40 for coming in first and five extra bonus points for leading laps.
Hamlin said, “This was a team victory. My teammates did an amazing job all day working together, all the Toyotas…It just all came together, and I got a great push from Kevin Harvick. This wouldn’t have happened without all the Toyotas sticking together. I’m so happy to get this victory for Joe Gibbs Racing.”
Now that he has won a Daytona 500, Hamlin has set the bar high for himself and his team.
How do you think Denny Hamlin will do in future races now that he has won a Daytona 500 race?