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Hamlin Finishes Sixth after Wild Busch Clash
Denny Hamlin finished sixth in the #11 FedEx Toyota in Sunday's Busch Clash at Daytona International Speedway after pushing Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones to victory.
Hamlin started 18th in the 18-car field following a random draw to determine starting positions. But, starting in the back didn't deter the driver of the FedEx Camry, who rocketed up to sixth after just five laps of racing on the high banks.
With most of the field content to draft in a single lane, Hamlin tried numerous times to get a second lane to form in an attempt to get to the front. Hamlin's attempts never accumulated enough cars to make the necessary speed to challenge the leaders before pit stops and varying strategies unfolded during the 75-lap event.
As the race progressed, the various strategies spread the field out around the entire 2.5-mile track. However, as the end of the race closed in, the field bunched back up and the racing heated up with three-wide racing.
While fighting for the lead with eight laps to go, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch tangled at the front of the field. Hamlin dove to the bottom to avoid the incident and took the lead in the process, however, the FedEx car was clipped in the right rear and received minor damage. Hamlin radioed that he thought the car was okay, but wasn't sure if the right rear tire would make it to the end. The FedEx team decided to stay out during the caution to retain the lead for the restart with three laps remaining.
Hamlin led the field through Turns 1 and 2, and down the backstretch, but as he reached Turn 3, the tire gave out and Hamlin spun in front of the field. The #11 sustained a lot of damage, but the team patched the car up and Hamlin returned to the race, two laps down.
Two more cautions would claim most of the field, and just five cars were running the final laps to the checkers. As the five cars jockeyed down the backstretch for the final time, Hamlin, now one lap down, tucked his FedEx Toyota under the rear of JGR teammate Erik Jones and pushed him from fourth to first through the final turn and to the checkered flag.
“That was awesome and so much fun,” said Hamlin, a three-time Busch Clash champion. “I mean I knew Erik needed to strap in because that last lap I was going to push him. I didn't care if I was going to push him into a wreck. I was just going to push him. It was fun. I mean my car was so, so fast. Proud of the effort by my FedEx team. I'm glad we got a JGR team win too. I mean that's all I could really do at the end was push him to victory.”
The NASCAR Cup Series begins their official season next Sunday, February 16, with the 62nd running of the Daytona 500.
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