Denny Hamlin wins the Daytona 500 for second year in a row
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - New year, another Denny Hamlin win in the Daytona 500. And Joe Gibbs still has the team to beat in NASCAR.
Hamlin won his third Daytona 500 on Monday, becoming the first driver since Sterling Marlin in 1995 to win "The Great American Race" in consecutive seasons. His win last year was a 1-2-3 sweep for Joe Gibbs Racing and kicked off a yearlong company celebration in which Gibbs drivers won a record 19 races and the Cup championship.
The post-race scene this year was somewhat subdued out of concern for Ryan Newman, who was wrecked as the leader and crossed the finish line with his car on its roof, engulfed in flames.
RELATED: Ryan Newman transported to hospital after final-lap crash at Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 17: Ryan Newman, driver of the #6 Koch Industries Ford, and Corey LaJoie, driver of the #32 RagingBull.com Ford, crash during the last lap of the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Spe
Hamlin joined six Hall of Fame drivers as winners of three or more Daytona 500s. He tied Dale Jarrett -- who gave JGR its first Daytona 500 win in 1993 -- Jeff Gordon and Bobby Allison. Hamlin trails Cale Yarborough's four wins and the record seven by Richard Petty.
This victory came after just the second rain postponement in 62 years, a visit from President Donald Trump, a pair of red flag stoppages and two overtimes. As he went door-to-door with Ryan Blaney for the finish -- the 0.014 margin of victory was the second closest in race history -- Newman took a wild ride along the track when he was crashed trying to hold onto the lead.
Newman's condition was not immediately known as safety workers rolled his car back onto its wheels before he was removed. Newman was taken by ambulance to a hospital. It made for a somber victory lane.
"I think we take for granted sometimes how safe the cars are and number one, we are praying for Ryan," Hamlin said.
Runner-up Blaney said the way the final lap shook out, with Newman surging ahead of Hamlin, that Blaney locked in behind Newman in a move of brand alliance for Ford.
"We pushed Newman there to the lead and then we got a push from the 11 ... I was committed to just pushing him to the win and having a Ford win it and got the bumpers hooked up wrong. It looked bad," he said.
Hamlin had eight Ford drivers lined up behind him as the leader on the second overtime shootout without a single fellow Toyota driver in the vicinity to help him. It allowed Newman to get past him for the lead, but the bumping in the pack led to Newman's hard turn right into the wall, followed by multiple rolls and a long skid across the finish line.
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 17: Safety crews respond to a wreck involving Ryan Newman, driver of the #6 Koch Industries Ford, after the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2020 in Daytona
The race got pushed back to Monday after rain washed out the Daytona International Speedway on Sunday.
The "Great American Race" got off to a fantastic start on Sunday as President Trump arrived in Daytona at about 1 p.m. Air Force One took a spin around the Speedway before landing at the Daytona International Airport.
The Presidential motorcade then made its way over to the speedway, where thousands of supporters were waiting for him. When President Trump stepped out in front of the NASCAR fans, they cheered for him until he gave his opening remarks, which was followed by chants of "USA" from the crowd.
Following his remarks, President Trump went on to utter the Daytona 500's iconic command "Gentlemen, start your engines!" with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds flying by immediately after. The President then completed a lap around the speedway in an armored presidential limo, becoming the first president to do so.
Just after the President's departure, came the first rain delay, pushing the event back. However, drivers soon got started, completing 20 laps before heavier rain arrived. The road took hours to dry and around 6:40 p.m., drivers were called back to their cars. However, within minutes, the heaviest rain of the day arrived, prompting the end of the night. NASCAR announced throughout the speedway that the Great American Race would pick back up on Monday afternoon.
However, despite the rain, thousands had fun at Daytona International Speedway during the sunnier parts of the day. For instance, FOX 35 witnessed a racing fan propose to his girlfriend that day, as well as a group of Jacksonville men having a great time as "The Real Joe Dirts."