Denny Hamlin made it to the Daytona 500 with the intentions of setting a new record: making it three wins in a row at the Great American Race – But, as we saw, that didn’t happen.
Hamlin dominated the first two parts of the Daytona 500. He was leading the final stage of the race but his fate would be decided at the last pit stop.
Denny, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and Bubba Wallace all pitted with 27 laps to go. The problem was that all of them exited with larger gaps in between each other, which made it impossible for them to gather back in the drafts as the other cars went by.
Hamlin rejoined in twelfth, having to defend his race and battle it through the field by himself. He then made it to ninth with 10 to go and then finished fifth after the hard wreck at the end.
“We were just too far out front. We got on and off pit road too well,” Hamlin said.
“I was just too far ahead of the pack. I figured the Chevys would make a move from two or three laps to go because they were not going to win on the last lap from fifth or sixth.
“I was able to gain some positions. I think I was 12th and everybody was running single file, so it handcuffed me and I couldn’t really do anything. I hoped once I got to eight, that as long as they made a move with two to go, I was in the energy and in the area where I could make something happen.”
Hamlin also shared his frustration with the way the race was crossing through the last lap.
“I’m wondering why in the world we were running in a single line crossing at the line. Twelfth, eight, six… Like, are you just happy with that finish? Or are you going to go for it? Especially since there were really no Fords behind about fifth or sixth, it was them and everyone else. And then, surprise, everyone else didn’t go.
“I don’t know who was leading that, but you got to go for the win,” he concluded.