Today is the day, the day that every racing fan has been waiting on since the beginning of the off season: The Daytona 500. It is the perfect day for racing: sunny skies with temperatures around 70 degrees. With the race beginning, there was one question on everyone’s mind: Who will win the 2016 Daytona 500? Many thought that the one to beat would be Dale Earnhardt Jr. while others felt that Denny Hamlin could win.
The race started with Chase Elliot on the pole while several drivers had to start from the rear due to using their backup car. Those drivers include Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth, Brian Scott, and AJ Allmedinger. This would not stop several of them from coming back and racing from the front most of the race. By lap 31 Jimmie Johnson came back from 38th to 4th and Kenseth came back to 3rd.
Chase Elliot led the first 3 laps before Dale Earnhardt Jr. passes him for the lead. The first caution of the race came on lap 20 when Rookie Chase Elliot spins out and hits the grass. In order to avoid collision with other cars Reagan Smith spins out as well, but remains in the race.
By lap 52 Denny Hamlin is leading the race with a 9 car pack separated from the rest of the field. Brian Vickers runs up on Joey Logano on lap 57 and ends up spinning out. Vickers blames this due to Logano checking up on him. This incident causes Trevor Bayne and Carl Edwards to wreck as well.
The next caution did not come out until lap 119 when Greg Biffle’s right rear tire went down causing a debris caution. Carl Edwards, who was involved in the caution earlier in the race receives the luck dog pass while Aric Almirola receives a penalty. Denny Hamlin wins the race off pit road with Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch following.
Green flag pit stops begin with 44 laps to go. Everything went according to plan for every driver except Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick. Both drivers were penalized for having team members over the wall too soon.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., the favorite to win today’s race, tries a risky move to try and get back into the top five with 30 laps to go. The move back fires and Jr ends up spinning hitting the wall and moving to the grass.
There are 16 laps to go and everything seems to go smooth until Greg Biffle and Danica Patrick tangle causing yet another caution. After this caution the rest of the race ran pretty smoothly. There were a few close call, but all the drivers did an excellent job and keeping their cars under control.
Those watching the race may have questioned whether or not the end of the race would be that exciting with the new rule of unlimited restarts possible. There were 3 laps to go when Denny Hamlin began to move out of the formation only to quickly go back into position. This happened for the next two laps a few times; that is, until the last lap. Once the last lap came into play Denny Hamlin his fourth place position to try and run up on leader Matt Kenseth.
Hamlin gets help from Harvick and makes a remarkable pass to push Matt Kenseth back towards the middle of the field. Martin Truex Jr. is in second place at this time and there is a drag race to the finish. Truex Jr. tries his best to fend of Hamlin and had about eight inches on Hamlin until Hamlin took the momentum from the side draft and won by just a mere four inches. This was the closest Daytona 500 finish for the history books and ended on a high note for Toyota; the first Daytona 500 win for the manufacturer.
The next race will take place in Atlanta and the racing should be as good as ever!