Hamlin Wins Sprint Unlimited
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on February 13, 2016 | 10:10 P.M. EST
Hamlin scored his third win in the non-points race that kicks off the Sprint Cup season. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Denny Hamlin scored his third career Sprint Unlimited win Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.
Hamlin was ahead in overtime when a multi-car crash broke out to bring out a caution and officially end the race.
The victory marked Joe Gibbs Racing's fourth in the Unlimited in the last five years. Hamlin led a race-high 39 laps and had help from his teammates through-out the race.
"I've gotten better at speedway racing over the last few years and really learned a lot from my teammates," Hamlin said. "But realistically you can go back and look at this race a million times, and had my teammates not stuck with me at the right times, we wouldn't have been able to stay up front."
The win was the first in Sprint Cup for Hamlin’s new crew chief Mike Wheeler.
"I’m so happy for Mike Wheeler to start one-for-one with a good win here at Daytona," Hamlin said. "It’s great to open up with a win.”
Joey Logano, Paul Menard, Kyle Larson and Casey Mears rounded out the top five.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski and Greg Biffle completed the first 10 finishers.
Qualifying to set the front row of the Daytona 500 is set for 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.
How Hamlin Won: After getting involved in an incident on lap 13 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun, Hamlin was able to race his way back to the front of the field despite the minor damage on his Toyota. The race was sent into overtime and at the drop of the green flag Hamlin was in the thick of the battle for the top spot finally getting around for the lead as the field passed the overtime line on the backstretch, making the race official. After taking the white flag, Hamlin got around Joey Logano for the lead and when several cars crashed at the back of the pack, caution was displayed and the race ended.
Who Had a Good Night: Defending Daytona 500 winner Logano was strong all night and had the race gone the overtime distance would have challenged Hamlin for the win but he was forced to settle for second...Larson started his third Sprint Cup Series season with a solid night that ended in fourth….Stenhouse Jr's spin early was the result of a tire going down, but he rebounded to come home sixth.
Who Had a Bad Night: A lot of people. The race was punctuated by a number of crashes. Brian Vickers, who was filling in for the injured Tony Stewart and making his first NASCAR star in nearly a year, cut a right-rear tire while running in the middle of the pack and made hard contact with the outside wall. He collected his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick in the mishap as well as Clint Bowyer - and five others that were able to continue - but all drivers were uninjured in the accident...Jimmie Johnson was running 10th but on lap 44 he got hit from behind causing him to lose control and spin through the infield grass with his car suffering damage...Kasey Kahne got tapped from Jamie McMurray who was trying to bump draft late in the race but the contact sent the Hendrick Motorsports driver spinning and into AJ Allmendinger. Both cars received heavy damage...The race was sent into overtime for a multi-car crash with three laps remaining involving Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Aric Almirola.
“I seen the 19 (Carl Edwards) and the 2 (Brad Keselowski) really fighting for a spot and from my vantage point that’s all I could see," Kyle Busch said. "I could tell we were going to wreck, so I tried to check up a little bit and then it was just on from behind me, but nothing else you could do from there I guess."
Then in overtime Matt Kenseth, Danica Patrick, Jamie McMurray, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski got together in a crash racing through Turn 1 to bring out the caution to effectively end the race.
What Else Happened: The race was marred by a series of accidents and never really settled into any long green flag runs. After the checkered flag flew there were only a handful of cars that did not have some kind of damage from the rough night of racing. There were also several drivers that had to deal with trash and debris on the track including Keselowski, who had what looked like a large plastic bag on the grille for several laps that increased his engine’s water temperature.
Quote of the Night: “It looked like a landfill on the front straightaway. My dad was in the garbage company. I know all about it. It looked just like it," Joey Logano said about the debris. "It was tough. You know, when you're the leader you're the first one to pick it, and there's no way to get it off unless you give up the lead. "
Notables: It was JGR’s eighth Unlimited win tying the team for the most with Richard Childress Racing...Hamlin scored his sixth career Daytona win with five coming during Speedweeks...Larson has two top-five finishes in a pair of career Unlimited starts.
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