Hamlin Wins Daytona Qualifying Race; Will Start Fourth in Daytona 500
Denny Hamlin passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. with one lap remaining in Thursday night's Daytona Duel qualifying race and held on for the victory, cementing a fourth-place starting position in Sunday's Daytona 500 in the #11 FedEx Express Toyota.
Hamlin charged from the tail end of the field following a pit road penalty during a competition caution on Lap 25, using precision driving and timely maneuvers to move back to the front in the draft-pack style racing. He used a push from Austin Dillon on the backstretch of the 2.5-mile track to swing to the outside of Earnhardt and complete the pass coming to the white flag.
“We didn’t exactly have the best handling car, but we did what we needed to do to grab the win,” said Hamlin, a three-time Duel race winner. “We have some work to do on our car for the (Daytona) 500, but we have a couple days of practice to dial in the FedEx Toyota.”
Hamlin started third and ran among the front of the field for the first stint. Under caution on Lap 25, Hamlin took four tires, but to avoid contact leaving his pit box, drove through too many stalls on exit to incur a penalty.
Chase Elliott and Earnhardt will make up the front row for Sunday’s “Great American Race” following time trials on Sunday, and Hamlin will start fourth alongside Jamie McMurray in the 200-lap marquee event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
One year ago, Hamlin won the Daytona 500 in historic fashion, edging Martin Truex Jr. by just 0.01 seconds, the closest margin of victory in 58 years of the event.