The Daytona 500
A promising day turned to frustration for Joe Gibbs Racing in today’s 55th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
With just over 50 laps remaining in the Great American Race, JGR appeared set for a historic finish with all three cars running 1-2-3 and having led a majority of the day. Unfortunately engine problems would leave Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth to finish 34th and 37th respectively, while Denny Hamlin got stuck in a slow bottom lane during the race’s final laps and finished 14th.
An incident in a qualifying duel race Thursday left Denny Hamlin to start his No. 11 FedEx Toyota toward the back of the field today, but it certainly didn’t appear to bother the team as he raced his way to the front and would lead three times for a total of 33 laps. Hamlin would restart third with just seven laps to go, but his inside lane proved too slow and ultimately he would lose the draft and fall back for a 14th-place finish.
Kyle Busch started his No. 18 M&Ms Toyota from the fourth position and was able to settle in to turn third through the early going. A mishap on pit road when the jack dropped in the middle of a green flag stop on lap 72 would send him toward the back of the pack however, but there was no panic in the team as they made sure the car was repaired properly and Busch was able to make up for any lost track position by climbing back into the top five in short order. Busch would be running second with 50 laps remaining when something broke in his engine forcing him to the garage and ending a promising day. He would officially finish in 34th.
For much of the day the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota proved to be the dominant car on the track. Matt Kenseth started in 12th but it wouldn’t take long for him to position his new 2013 Camry at the front of the field. He would remain there for much of the first ¾ of the race while his teammates both joined him to give JGR the first three spots in the field. The trio hoped to remain in the top spots to compete with each other for the win, but with just over 50 laps remaining Kenseth would radio in that there was something wrong and he would have to take the car to the garage. A problem with the engine would prove to be the issue and Kenseth would see his day come to an end after lap 149. Kenseth was still impressive in his JGR debut as he lead four times for a race-high 86 laps in the Dollar General Camry.
Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports would capture the win, while Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was second, Mark Martin third, Brad Keselowski fourth, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 24 laps and 28 lead changes among 14 different drivers.