This marked the first career Sprint Unlimited win for crew chief Mike Wheeler atop the pit box as a rookie. “I’m so happy for (Mike Wheeler) to start one-for-one with a good win at Daytona.” Hamlin said. “This win couldn’t be possible without my teammates. Matt (Kenseth) sacrificed so much pushing me at the right time. Total team effort just like Kyle’s (Busch) championship. We win as a team and this was a Joe Gibbs Racing win.”
Although the field of 25 drivers battled loose race cars all night, it wasn’t until the final laps of the race where things started to get intense. With three laps to go, caution came out, which would lead to NASCAR’s version of overtime. Hamlin and the No. 22 of Joey Logano were racing in a dead heat before the yellow came out again. Although the field had already crossed the ‘overtime’ line, before the final ‘big one. Hamlin was then able to coast to the checkers with Logano finishing second.
Although Logano had to settle for runner up, he was still pleased with his performance in the 79-lap race. “I had a great Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion and we kept working our way up from the back and it was hard for us to get that lead,” Logano said. “We were so close, right next to the 11 when they started crashing there. It’s a good start for the weekend and I’m proud of what we did.”
Paul Menard took home a third-place finish for Richard Childress Racing. The driver of the No. 27 Peak Antifreeze/Menards Chevrolet struggled with speed but was pleased with the way his car drafted. “It was a lot of fun,” Menard said. “I picked some wrong lanes and some right lanes, and in the end, the middle worked pretty well. It was a wild race."
Although Jimmie Johnson started on the pole, the No. 48 team’s luck didn’t continue as Johnson was involved in a crash at lap 43. “I could see the hole closing up. I was trying to get out of it and I avoided crashing the two guys that closed the door on me but I got hit from behind and that’s what sent me down through the infield,” he explained. “I was just trying hard. I was trying to see what I could get away with and what I couldn’t by being aggressive.”
Although the driver of the Lowes’ Chevrolet wrecked, he still believes he and his team learned a lot for next week’s Daytona 500. “This car isn’t like the other car,” he said. “But being in the car and trying to set up passes and getting onto pit road; all those things were really helpful.”
- Denny Hamlin
- Joey Logano
- Paul Menard
- Kyle Larson
- Casey Mears
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Kurt Busch
- Austin Dillon
- Brad Keselowski
- Greg Biffle
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will now prepare for the Daytona 500 with qualifying tomorrow at 1 PM ET on FOX, MRN and Sirius XM.