NASCAR

Denny Hamlin wins Daytona 500 in closest finish in history

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Denny Hamlin wins Daytona 500 in closest finish in history

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- With a Hail Mary move, Denny Hamlin ended Joe Gibbs' 23-year drought at the Daytona 500.

Gibbs made it clear that he had no use for the victories his drivers collected in the exhibition races leading into Sunday's season-opener. The three-time Super Bowl winning coach was focused only on the "Great American Race" and his four drivers brainstormed on the best way to get a win for Gibbs.

Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and reigning NASCAR champion Kyle Busch stuck close together for most of the race, and they got assistance from Martin Truex Jr., who became a de facto JGR teammate this year when Furniture Row Racing moved to Toyota.

Kenseth was out front and leading Truex until the final lap when Hamlin finally jumped out of line to make his attempt at the win. Starting a second line on the outside, Hamlin got a push from Kevin Harvick that allowed him to catch Kenseth. Kenseth tried to throw a block but Hamlin wedged into the middle between Kenseth and Truex and Kenseth had to save his car from wrecking.

Hamlin then raced Truex side-by-side to the checkered flag for a photo finish. The margin of victory was 0.010 seconds, the closest in race history.

"I don't know where that came from, I don't know what happened, I can't even figure out what I did," Hamlin said. "It all just came together. But this wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for Toyotas sticking together all race long."

It was Hamlin's first Daytona 500 victory and first for Toyota. Gibbs, who in November celebrated with Busch the team's first Sprint Cup title in a decade, won the Daytona 500 for the first time since Dale Jarrett in 1993.

Truex, who spun the loss as a positive in that he proved to JGR that he and Furniture Row Racing will be strong partners, wasn't sure what he could have done differently.

"It hurts a little bit," Truex said. "We were in the right spot, we made the right moves. You can second-guess all day long, the only thing I could have done different was be more aggressive to the line."

Toyotas swept the podium as Truex was second, and Busch third. Carl Edwards was fifth as Toyota took four of the top five spots.

Kenseth faded to 14th.

"They don't get much more crushing than that," Kenseth said.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., seeking his third Daytona 500 victory, came up empty as he tried to force his way through the field late in the race.

Earnhardt was using the high line to inch closer to the front, and when he tried to get a side draft from another car, he spun through the fourth turn. His Chevrolet hit an interior wall and then ricocheted into the grass, where Earnhardt found himself stuck.

Earnhardt was a heavy favorite to win and brought a car nicknamed "Amelia Earhart" that had appeared to be unbeatable. Amelia won four races - including a qualifier at Daytona earlier this week - and never finished lower than third in seven starts over the past year.

"Caught me by surprise there," Earnhardt said.

Tales of the Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 17

Tales of the Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 17

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, titled Tales of the Turtles 400, is coming to Joliet on Sept. 17, Chicagoland Speedway and Nickelodeon announced last week.

It will mark the seventh straight year Chicagoland Speedway will kick off NASCAR's playoffs.

Nickelodeon Sr. Vice President of Sports Marketing Anthony DiCosmo and President of Chicagoland Speedway Scott Paddock joined SportsTalk Live to discuss it all, and even had a few special guests join them as well.

Check it out in the video above.

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Kurt Busch had a monster start to the season with a last-lap pass to win the crash-filled Daytona 500.

Busch is sponsored by Monster Energy, which kicked off its first season as the title sponsor for NASCAR's top series Sunday with the season-opener. It wasn't NASCAR finest moment, though, as multiple accidents pared down the field and had a mismatched group of drivers racing for the win at the end.

"The more that becomes unpredictable about Daytona, the more it becomes predictable to predict unpredictability," Busch said. "This car's completely thrashed. There's not a straight panel on it. The strategy today, who knew what to pit when, what segments were what. Everybody's wrecking as soon as we're done with the second segment.

"The more that I've run this race, the more that I just throw caution to the wind, let it rip and just elbows out. That's what we did."

It appeared to be pole-sitter Chase Elliott's race to lose, then he ran out of gas. So did Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Paul Menard. As they all slipped off the pace, Busch sailed through for his first career Daytona 500 victory.

It also was the first Daytona 500 win for Stewart-Haas Racing, which is co-owned by Tony Stewart. The three-time champion retired at the end of last season and watched his four cars race from the pits.

"I ran this damn race (17) years and couldn't win it, so finally won it as an owner," Stewart said.

Ryan Blaney finished second in a Ford. AJ Allmendinger was third in a Chevrolet, and Aric Almirola was fourth for Richard Petty Motorsports.

The win was a huge boost for Ford, which lured Stewart-Haas Racing away from Chevrolet this season and celebrated the coup with its second Daytona 500 victory in three years. Joey Logano won in a Ford in 2015.

The first points race of the Monster era was run under a new format that split the 500 miles into three stages. Kyle Busch won the first stage, Kevin Harvick won the second stage and neither was a contender for the win. NASCAR also this year passed a rule that gave teams just five minutes to repair any damage on their cars or they were forced to retire.

But the race was slowed by wreck after wreck after wreck, including a 17-car accident at the start of the final stage that ended the race for seven-time and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick. It was a particularly rough incident for Patrick and her Stewart-Haas Racing team, which had all four of its cars collected in the accident.

"Just seems like that could have been avoided and was uncalled for," Johnson said of the aggressive racing behind him that triggered the accident.