Hamlin wins Nationwide race
By Jenna Fryer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ó Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart or Joey Logano. No matter who’s behind the wheel of the No. 20 Toyota, it always seems to end up in Victory Lane.
Hamlin held off Busch on Friday night at Daytona International Speedway to extend Joe Gibbs Racing’s dominance in the Nationwide Series, driving the No. 20 to its ninth victory of the season.
The car is so stout, third-place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr. had no idea who was behind the wheel and repeatedly congratulated Stewart on the win.
Stewart, who drove the car to a win last week in New Hampshire, took Friday night off and Earnhardt eventually figured out it was Hamlin who raced to his third series win of the season.
“You can take that several different ways,” Hamlin said of Earnhardt’s mistake. “You could take it as I was driving a lot like Tony, which is a compliment in my eyes. If I was driving like Tony on a superspeedway, that’s pretty dang good, so I’ll take it.”
To get this win, Hamlin knew he’d have to earn it ó even with the best car in the field.
“Just because you are in the 20 car at Daytona doesn’t mean it’s an automatic win,” Hamlin said. “The best car rarely wins. It was going to be up to me to make it happen. When you’ve got a car as good as I did, it gives me some options on the racetrack. When you don’t have that, it makes it a lot tougher.”
Hamlin had a comfortable lead over Busch, his JGR teammate, as they headed toward the white flag, but rookie Colin Braun spun to bring out just the third caution of the race.
NASCAR reset the laps to create a two-lap sprint to the finish. Hamlin got a great jump on the restart and Busch couldn’t challenge him as Hamlin drove to his third Nationwide win of the year.
“I’ve got to thank Kyle for sticking with me right there in the end,” Hamlin said. “The only way we were going is if he actually went for the win.”
JGR drivers have dominated the series this season ó cars owned by the organization have won 12 times.
Hamlin (3), Busch (4), Logano (1) and Stewart (5) have combined to win 13 of the 18 series races this year. Busch earned one of his wins driving for Braun Racing.
But it’s been the flagship No. 20 that’s dominated this season no matter who is driving it.
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