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Denny Hamlin prevails in closest finish in Daytona 500 history

By Amanda Vincent, The Sports Xchange   |   Updated Feb. 21, 2016 at 8:53 PM
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Denny Hamlin towed the outside line of cars to the checkered flag in Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season opener Sunday at Daytona International Speedway to claim his first win in NASCAR's biggest race.

Hamlin beat fellow-Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. by 0.01-second, the closest-ever Daytona 500 finish. It was the first Daytona 500 win for Toyota.

Toyota claimed the top-three spots in the finishing order and four of the top five positions, with Kyle Busch finishing third and Carl Edwards fifth. Chevrolet driver Kevin Harvick was fourth.

The Joe Gibbs Racing trio of Hamlin, Busch and Kenseth, along with corporate teammate Truex of Furniture Row Racing dominated the top four positions throughout much of the race, mostly with Hamlin out front.

Hamlin led nearly half of the 200-lap race. JGR teammate Edwards spent much of the race a lap down after hitting the wall on lap 57.

Kenseth was temporarily separated from the group when he had trouble getting out of his pit stall as Regan Smith was pulling into the stall right in front of him during a lap 119 caution.

Kenseth eventually caught back up to his teammates before Hamlin gave up positions to take four tires instead of two during a yellow flag with 30 laps to go.

Pole sitter Chase Elliott was joined up front by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt at the start of the race, with Earnhardt taking the lead on lap four. After losing the lead, Elliott slipped back to the back half of the top 10 before spinning into the infield grass and damaging the front end of his car on lap 19. He returned to the race 40 laps later.

After leading 15 laps, Earnhardt lost the lead to Busch and drifted back several positions. He wound up having his own wreck with 30 laps to go.

Joey Logano finished sixth, Kyle Larson seventh, Smith was eighth, Austin Dillon ninth, and Kurt Busch rounded out the top 10. Kenseth wound up 14th after leading at the white flag.

NOTES: Chase Elliott, 2016 pole sitter, is the youngest driver ever to win a Daytona 500 pole at the age of 20 years, two months and 17 days. It was the second-consecutive Daytona 500 pole for the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team. ... Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Elliott all already have 2016 Daytona Speedweeks wins. Hamlin won the Sprint Unlimited, Earnhardt and Busch won Can-Am Duel races and Elliott the Xfinity Series race. ... Brian Vickers filled-in for the injured Tony Stewart. ... Joey Logano won the 2015 Daytona 500.

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