The Daytona 500 took on a new look thanks to the newly paved surface at Daytona International Speedway, but high speed excitement remained the primary characteristic of the Great American Race.
Although all three Joe Gibbs Racing entries were able to avoid the big accident for the majority of the race, misfortune would ultimately find the trio before the end of the race and spoil any opportunity for the team to kickoff its 20th Anniversary season with a victory. Kyle Busch would finish the race in eighth, while Denny Hamlin came home 21st and Joey Logano ended in 23rd.
Throughout speed weeks it became evident that the fastest way around the track would be having two cars partner to race in pairs. While the style of racing created high speeds it also created a very slim margin of error as the slightest wrong bump could send cars spinning across the track.
Kyle Busch would have that experience on just the fourth lap of today’s Daytona 500 as contact with Michael Waltrip sent the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota across the track. Busch did a fantastic job however of staying off the wall to minimize the damage to the Camry. On lap 29 a large accident took out several contenders, but fortunately all three Joe Gibbs Racing entries were able to avoid the wreckage. From that point on Busch and teammate Denny Hamlin made a decision to take their time toward the back of the field in hopes of avoiding the potential wreckage of others. With about 50 laps to go Busch made his way toward the front of the field and spent the rest of the day running inside the top 10 despite having to change drafting partners multiple times. Unfortunately for the M&Ms team he would radio in as the field prepared for a green-white-checkered finish that he had a tire going down. Busch brought the No. 18 Camry down pit road for fresh tires and restarted for the final time in 16th position. He was able to race his way back into the top 10 over the final two laps to finish the day in eighth place. He did manage to lead a lap on three different occasions.
Watching so many others get caught up in accidents through the first half of the race, Denny Hamlin seemed relatively content keeping his No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota toward the back of the field through much of today’s race. Once Hamlin decided it was time to go to the front however, it didn’t take long for him to get there. Hamlin got on the bumper of the No. 39 car and the FedEx Camry pushed the duo to the front of the field. He would take the top spot on lap 165 and spent the rest of the day among the leaders at the front of the field. Unfortunately for Hamlin he would be unable to avoid contact when several cars field wrecked in front of him with just four laps to go in the race. The resulting trip down pit road would force him to fall a lap off the pace and the FedEx team would have to settle for a disappointing 21st-place finish.
Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota toward the back of the field but was able to find the partners to push his way toward the front. Logano proved strong enough to get to the front of the field when desired as he pushed Ryan Newman and Robby Gordon to the front of the field during separate runs. Misfortune would find Logano on lap 167 however, when Brad Keselowski lost control of his car and spun down into him. At first the damage appeared minimal but when The Home Depot Toyota came to pit road the right rear of the car needed more extensive repairs. Logano would lose two laps to field and ultimately finished 23rd.
Rookie Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 in only his second Sprint Cup Series start of his career. Carl Edwards was second, followed by David Gilliland, Bobby LaBonte, and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. There were 74 total lead changes among 22 different drivers and 16 cautions for 60 laps. The race was extended eight laps for two green-white-checkered attempts.