DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Denny Hamlin came to the Daytona 500 determined to honor his late car owner with a victory.

He delivered in a storybook tribute for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Hamlin won NASCAR’s biggest race for the second time in four years Sunday, leading JGR in a 1-2-3 sweep of the podium. The race and the season have been dedicated to J.D. Gibbs, Joe Gibbs’ eldest son who died last month after battling a degenerative neurological disease.

J.D. Gibbs helped his father start the race team, ran it while Joe Gibbs was coaching Washington in the NFL, was a tire changer on the team’s first Daytona 500 victory and the one who discovered Hamlin during a test session at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina. Hamlin was hired to drive the No. 11 – the number J.D. Gibbs used when he played football – and J.D. Gibbs’ name is on the Toyota.

When Hamlin stopped his car along the frontstretch to collect the checkered flag, he immediately credited J.D. Gibbs.

“The whole family, they did so much for me over the course of my career, and this one is for J.D,” Hamlin said. “We are desperately going to miss him the rest of our lives. His legacy still lives on through Joe Gibbs Racing and proud to do this for them.”

Kyle Busch and Erik Jones finished second and third, as JGR became the second team in NASCAR history to sweep the Daytona 500 podium. Hendrick Motorsports did it in 1997 with Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven.

Busch, now winless in 14 Daytona 500s, was initially openly disappointed in falling short.

“He’s got two, I’ve got none, and that’s just the way it goes sometimes,” Busch said.

But he reiterated the JGR and Toyota goal of working together to win and noted he didn’t have much of a shot at beating Hamlin because the field had been decimated by a flurry of late accidents.

“Was trying to make sure one of us gets to victory lane, first and foremost,” Busch said. “There wasn’t enough cars out there running at the end. I don’t know how it would have played out.”

The Cup Series slogged through three uninspiring exhibition races during Speedweeks to cause concern over a potentially disappointing main event. Jim France, who took over as chairman of NASCAR last August, used the pre-race driver meeting to ask them to liven up the activity. Hamlin and Chase Elliott were the rare drivers to use the bottom lane in the exhibition races while the rest of the field ran single-file along the top.

The drivers delivered an action-packed and wreck-filled race.

There was an accident on pit road, a 21-car crash, 12 cautions and five wrecks in the final 20 laps. The race was stopped twice for cleanup totaling nearly 40 minutes in the final stretch. During the second red flag, one of NASCAR’s track-drying trucks broke down while cleaning oil off the surface.

Hamlin and Busch alternated as the leaders during the handful of late restarts, and the final rush to the checkered flag was a push to hold off the reigning NASCAR champion, Joey Logano.

Logano, who started his career at JGR, settled for fourth and also took a moment to honor J.D. Gibbs.

Michael McDowell was fifth in a Ford but aggravated Logano, his teammate, by not working with him in the two-lap overtime sprint to the finish.

“I just told him that my team doesn’t pay me to push Joey Logano to a win,” McDowell said.


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