NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin crosses the finish line to win the Daytona 500.(Sean Gardner / Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin celebrates with a burnout after winning the Daytona 500.(Sean Gardner / Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin celebrates in a flurry of confetti in Victory Lane after winning the Daytona 500.(Stephen M. Dowell / Orlando Sentinel)
Denny Hamlin’s pit crew takes selfies with the championship trophy as they celebrate in Victory Lane after winning the Daytona 500.(Stephen M. Dowell / Orlando Sentinel)
NASCAR drivers Erik Jones (20), William Byron (24), Brad Keselowski (2) and Brendan Gaughan (62) are involved in a crash in the final laps of the Daytona 500.(David Graham / Associated Press)
The car of Ryan Blaney (12) is caught in the middle of multiple-car accident that included Austin Dillon (3), Daniel Suarez (41), David Ragan (38), Paul Menard (21), Ryan Newman (6), Aric Almirola (10) and Matt DiBenedetto (95) with 10 laps left in the Daytona 500.(Chris O’Meara / Associated Press)
A row of cars slips past the start of a 21-car wreck with 10 laps left in the Daytona 500.(Brian Lawdermilk / Getty Images)
The pit crew for William Byron adds fuel and changes tires during a pit stop.(David Graham / AP)
NASCAR drivers Ryan Blaney (12), William Byron (24) and Kyle Larson 42) drive three across during the Daytona 500.(Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images)
Tyler Reddick’s car (31) is lifted off the track after getting struck by the car of Jimmie Johnson.(Brian Lawdermilk / Getty Images)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17) slips his car between those of Cody Ware (52) and Tyler Reddick (31)during a crash on pit road during Daytona 500.(Chris OMeara / Associated Press)
The cars of NASCAR drivers Tyler Reddick (31) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17) slide into a pit stall after colliding in the Daytona 500.(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)
Matt DiBenedett leads the field through a turn at the Daytona 500.(Sean Gardner / Getty Images)
BJ McLeod skids to a stop on the infield grass after he was involved in an on-track crash during the Daytona 500.(Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)
The cars of Darrell Wallace Jr. (43) and Kurt Busch (1) collide as Clint Bowyer (14) goes high to avoid the crash during the Daytona 500.(Ron Sanders / AP)
Pole-sitter William Byron leads the field at the start of the Daytona 500.(Chris Graythen / Getty Images)
Joey Logano, a onetime Daytona 500 winner, is the defending NASCAR Cup champion, which in theory should give him an advantage this year. But everything is changing with the elimination of the restrictor plate and the introduction of thicker spacers to slow cars and make racing closer.
He finished fourth Sunday but is pragmatic about the learning curve everyone has to go thorough.
“You just take it as it comes,” Logano said. “It’s going to be different when we get to Atlanta [this week] than we’ve ever had before. We don’t really know. Expect the unexpected, I guess, just like we were for the Daytona 500. You just don’t know how those races are going to play out, and each track is going to be different.
“You’re going to have to give it some time to really understand if it’s better or not or what to like or dislike about it because as these teams evolve and start to figure out this setup, you’re going to see the racing change again. What you see” the following week in Las Vegas, from testing to racing, “is probably going to be a little bit different.”
Race that wouldn’t end
The official time of Sunday’s Daytona 500 was 3 hours 45 minutes 55 seconds. But, the two red flags of 25 and 15 minutes weren’t included in that stat. It can make for a long day, especially if you’re sitting in a car.
“I was looking at the time on the dash and looking at scoreboard [before things got crazy] and thought at 6:15 we’re going to know the end of this race,” winner Denny Hamlin said. “[Then I thought] at 6:30 we’re going to know the end of the race. [Then I thought] at 6:50 we’re going to know the end of the race.
“It was crazy. The track was an absolute mess, especially in Turns 3 and 4. We were fortunate to be up front when those [wrecks] happened … lucky to be up front at the right time.”
Between all the cautions and overtime, the race went 207 laps or 517.5 miles.
Another disappointment for Almirola
Last year, Aric Almirola was about a mile away from winning the Daytona 500, but he got tangled with Austin Dillon on the last lap and crashed into the wall while Dillon went on to win. This year Almirola wasn’t as close but once again wrecked out, this time in the 21-car crash inside of 10 laps and finished 32nd.
“Last year, taking the white flag with the lead with emotions high and feeling like you have a great shot to win, was worse,” Almirola said. “[Sunday] we were about 10th or 12th and with 10 laps to go a lot can play out, a lot can happen. It didn’t feel like we were as close but it’s still disappointing.
“You never want to come down here and wreck out of the Daytona 500. You want a shot in the final closing laps. Unfortunately, we weren’t in the right position.”
Tough day for Bubba
Bubba Wallace, last year’s second-place finisher, had any hopes of a repeat end in lap 50 when he was bumped into Kurt Busch, badly damaging his car. Busch was trying to drop low in Turn 2 in front of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. but his car started to go sideways. Wallace might have been able to avoid Busch but was tapped from behind by Tyler Reddick. Wallace couldn’t keep his car from slamming into Busch. Jamie McMurray then finished the job by hitting Wallace in the front. Wallace was able to return to the race but never able to get enough horsepower out of his engine and languished at the back the pack and finished 38th, 38 laps behind the leader.