February 17, 2019
When the 2018 season ended at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Denny Hamlin had a first happen to him. Ever since his rookie season, in 2006, Hamlin has won at least one race each season. Until the 2018 season.
For the first time in his career, which spans thirteen years, as a full-time driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Hamlin went winless. Some could point the blame at the organization as a whole. Joe Gibbs Racing was not what the fans were used to other than the #18 of Kyle Busch being part of the 'Big Three' last year and the #20 of Erik Jones getting a win at Daytona,
Following the Ford Eco Boost 400 in November, Hamlin commented on his season in a interview with frontstretch.com, “We tried as hard as we could… We definitely ran better the last half of the season and I’m happy about that. We’re leading laps, kind of being up there in the stages a little bit better toward the end. It’s something that’s at least positive for next year.”
It was safe to say Hamlin was ready to put last season in the rear-view mirror and see what 2019 had in store. Especially since he was going to have a new crew chief for the upcoming season.
However, before things even got started tragedy struck Joe Gibbs Racing. On January 11, president and co-founder of Joe Gibbs Racing, JD Gibbs (son of Joe Gibbs) passed away after a long battle with degenerative neurological disease. Hamlin credits JD for helping him get racing in NASCAR’s top level. Hamlin vowed this season would be dedicated to JD Gibbs.
The start of Speedweeks was pretty typical. Hamlin finished The Clash in the same position as he started, seventeenth. For The Duels he didn’t race until the second duel. He started sixth and finished fourth. He would start tenth for the Great American Race.
The race was pretty calm, until the last few laps. The 'big one' happened with only a handful of laps to go. This put the race under a red flag.
Once overtime started, it was calm. For the last restart Denny Hamlin got a push and was able to stay in the lead for the last lap to win the Daytona 500! His second Daytona 500.
This also ended his winless streak. But most importantly, as he said in Victory Lane. This one is for JD.
Photo credits: 1) AP Photo/John Raoux.
2) AP Photo/ Phelan M. Ebenhack
Follow and chat with me here: @bookk14g
SHOP HERE for your new 2019 NASCAR gear!!
This week is one I'll never forget. Thanks to my team and sponsors for all of the support. It's not possible without you. I think we are in store for a special year. #DoItForJD #LetsGoPlaces #partners @FedEx @Toyota @CocaColaRacing @Jumpman23 pic.twitter.com/ECmLQzOlQ4— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) February 22, 2019