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Denny Hamlin Defends Daytona 500 Championship

Denny Hamlin became the fourth driver to win back-to-back Daytona 500s on Monday night, winning the 62nd running of “The Great American Race” in a NASCAR overtime finish at Daytona International Speedway.

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The race resumed Monday afternoon after it was halted on Sunday night with 20 laps completed. It was only the second postponement in Daytona 500 history – 2012 was the other.

Hamlin, driving the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota, joined Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95) as consecutive Daytona 500 champions. Hamlin also became only the sixth driver to win NASCAR’s premier event at least three times; he also won in 2016.

Hamlin edged Ryan Blaney (No. 12 Menards/Peak Ford) by 0.014 seconds while Chris Buescher (No. 17 Fastenal Ford) finished third. The race was extended to 209 laps, nine past the scheduled 200-lap/500-mile distance, via two “NASCAR overtimes” caused by late-race incidents.

For Hamlin, the victory continued his emergence as the latest NASCAR Cup Series driver to dominate at Daytona.

“I just feel like I’m a student of the game,” Hamlin said. “I never stop learning and trying to figure out where I need to put myself at the right time.

“It doesn’t always work [but] we’ve defied the odds here in the Daytona 500. I just trust my instincts and so far they’ve been good for me. I can’t do it without the car. That’s [enabling me] to make those race-winning moves.”

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The race also ended its last lap with a large crash involving Ryan Newman (No. 6 Koch Industries Ford), who led on the inside coming to the stripe, getting a push from Blaney. Hamlin was running third on the inside. Suddenly, Newman’s car turned right, into the wall. Seconds later, Newman was hit by Corey LaJoie’s car (No. 32 RagingBull.com Ford) on the driver’s side panel. Newman was transported to a local hospital afterward.

“Ryan Newman is being treated at Halifax Medical Center,” Roush Fenway Racing said via a statement. “He is in serious condition, but doctors have indicated his injuries are not life threatening. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers and ask that you respect the privacy of Ryan and his family during this time. We appreciate your patience and cooperation and we will provide more information as it becomes available.”

For Hamlin, the “weekend” continues Tuesday, with the traditional Daytona 500 champion’s media tour in New York, a full slate of appearances and interviews that include visits to LIVE! with Kelly & Ryan, FOX New York “The Noon,” the Jim Rome Show, Barstool Breakfast, SiriusXM Radio, CBS Sports Radio and the New York Stock Exchange. Hamlin will also take part in a special satellite media tour on Friday from Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of next week’s NASCAR Cup Series race.

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Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota) failed to win his sport’s biggest race for the 15th time. Busch was leading on Lap 183 when his car developed engine problems. He finished 34th.

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Ally Chevrolet) raced in the Daytona 500 for what could be for the final time, finishing 35th; he is retiring from the NASCAR Cup Series after this season. The two-time Daytona 500 champion started sixth after a strong run in one of last week’s two qualifying races. Johnson shares the all-time record of seven NASCAR Cup Series championships with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

Racing resumes at Daytona International Speedway on March 6-15 the 79th annual Bike Week at Daytona.

For more information: www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com

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