In a Sprint Unlimited that saw only eight of 18 cars finish and the pace car catch on fire Saturday night at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Denny Hamlin continued his momentum from the end of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup race season to take the victory.
“We’re two-in-a-row now,” Hamlin said. “We’re building on something. It’s a great win. You love starting Speedweeks like this.”
Brad Keselowski finished second, and Kyle Busch was third. The remainder of the finishing order, among those who actually finished were as follows: Joey Logano in fourth, Kevin Harvick in fifth, Jamie McMurray sixth, Marcos Ambrose seventh and Ryan Newman eighth.
“It was definitely a race of attrition, and we suvived, somewhat, to the end,” Keselowski said. “We finished second. Obviously came up one spot short, which in a race like this is all that matters. It was just kind of the timing of the runs.”
Despite the race being only 75 laps in lengh, the yellow flag waved five times for 13 laps, including a caution that brought the beginning of a segment break after lap 55. Harvick and Johnson were caught up in a wreck on the frontstretch on lap 30. The big one came just a few laps later when a lane change by Matt Kenseth resulted in a nine-car pileup that also involved Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Harvick, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse also included his girlfriend Danica Patrick in the incident when, unable to see because of a raised hood, plowed into Patrick. The carnage led to a red flag period of over 11 minutes for track cleanup.
“Ricky said his hood was up, so he couldn’t see anything, which is a bummer, because I was pretty much just going to need four tires,” Patrick said. “It was a real bummer, because I was having fun, and I felt like I was really learning a lot.”
Despite finishing near the front, Keselowski and Kyle Busch were also caught up in an accident when they got together to bring out the yellow flag on lap 61. The final caution of the race came with an incident between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ambrose on lap 67.
In addition to being the race winner, Hamlin also took top honors in the laps led category, leading six different times for a total of 27 laps.
“The best car won, that’s for sure,” Hamlin said.
But first, check out the photos, below, of action from the Sprint Unlimited (photos courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR):