Paul Menard takes blame for starting 'Big One' late in Daytona 500

Denny Hamlin wins Daytona 500 after series of huge crashes

Denny Hamlin wins Daytona 500 after series of huge crashes

Jim France told 'em to race and NASCAR's next generation didn't disappoint.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers are set to compete in the 61st running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

The race was placed under a red flag after the wreck.

Busch let Hamlin down in front of him on the overtime restart, believing that "strength in numbers" was the key to getting a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into victory lane.

JD Gibbs, who co-founded the team with his father, died last month after a degenerative neurological disease. "But in the end, you couldn't be more thrilled for the 500 people back at Joe Gibbs Racing that knew and respected and looked up to J.D. for the person that he was and the relationships that he gave all of us".

There had been concern the main event might disappoint after three ho-hum exhibition races, but NASCAR got the event it needed to start its rebuilding season.

Miraculously all the drivers were able to get out of their cars and no serious injuries have been reported.

It wasn't meant to be for them, and Hamlin raced on to get his second win at the Great American race, following a decent battle with runner up Kyle Busch. "I said this morning, we're going to use all our luck up this weekend".

Who knows if France's request - it actually sounded as if he was asking for a favor - was the kick in the seat the drivers needed?

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The race started out very aggressive and hot.

Sixteen years and 580 Cup starts later, McMurray's career hasn't played out in the same storybook fashion as it started, as his production just never measured up to that of his peers in the Cup garage.

- Paul Menard was ensnared in both the big wrecks at Speedweeks. He finished 22nd in his final race before retirement.

Ty Dillon was sixth in the highest-finishing Chevrolet. He actually led six of the 200 laps.

Erik Jones, Joey Logano and Michael McDowell took the third, fourth and fifth spots.

"I wrecked a lot of cars and I feel bad about that".

The race featured eight drivers making their Daytona 500 debuts and rookie Ryan Preece, a short track racer from New England, was best in class with an eighth-place finish. Watermelon farmer Ross Chastain, in one of the slowest cars in the field, finished 10th. "That was pretty intense there a few times".

"There's just something about Daytona that fits everything I do", Hamlin said. "The Daytona 500 with everybody out there trying to get after it, it's not going to be boring".

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