DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Denny Hamlin wondered if the Next Gen car would negate any of his past advantages here at the Daytona International Speedway. See, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver may have had five superspeedway wins during the course of his career, but three of them occurred right here at the World Center of Racing.
In fact, all three were via Daytona 500 triumphs.
The thing is, all of his superspeedway wins came with the Gen 6 race car that is now obsolete. Prior to the previous generation of car being introduced in 2013, Hamlin had one top 10 (4th) in seven years. In the nine years after, he had seven top fives alone. Would the Next Gen keep that advantage still or did it change everything?
Well, it took him out early.
Hamlin was collected in the Lap 62 Big One on the backstretch of Sunday’s 64th annual Daytona 500 and suffered his worst finish of his career in the Great American Race and his first DNF since 2020. He had finished on the lead lap in 34 of the 36 races last year.
“I’m not sure. It was all just pushing up top that was uncontrolled and they just came down into us,” Hamlin said.
The incident was sparked when Brad Keselowski was pushing rookie Harrison Burton too hard on the right side of Burton’s No. 21 Ford in Turn 2. They were the top two cars on the top line with three laps-to-go in the opening stage but the constant pushing on the right side bumper got Burton’s car loose and when Keselowski tried again, it turned him.
Burton, spun and even got airborne and landed on his roof on the backstretch before trying to drive away. Ross Chastain, William Byron, Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman and Hamlin were all collected behind.
Keselowski says that he was trying to get off his right rear but when he did, he got loose and got back up into Burton.
For Byron, his Daytona 500 finishes are now – 23rd, 21st, 40th, 26th and 37th respectively. Bell’s is 21st, 16th and 35th.