In a bit of survival mode for the last handful of laps, Denny Hamlin crossed the finish line just ahead of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Kyle Busch, and Erik Jones. It was an emotional win for everyone at JGR.
Emotional Win for JGR Teams
It was emotional for all the regular reasons of winning NASCAR’s most prestigious race, but also because of the passing of J.D. Gibbs back in January.
Team owner and father of the late J.D. Gibbs put it in perspective in the Daytona media center.
“I’d just like to retrace for a minute what happened tonight, which is— it’s the most emotional and the biggest win I’ve ever had in my life in anything,” Gibbs said.
“J.D. built our race team, was the guy that ran day‑to‑day operations for 27 years. He invested his occupational life in our race team. And as a part of that, he went up to purchase some late model stuff from Denny and struck up a relationship with Denny, put him in a test, put him in a truck, put him in an Xfinity car at Darlington, and finally he said, ‘We need to sign this guy.'”
Hamlin said it was great hearing Joe Gibbs’ ranking of the win.
“As far as the Gibbs family, it’s just great to—hearing that Joe and everything that he has accomplished in his life, I mean, he’s an NFL Hall of Famer, Super Bowl champion, and saying that this is the biggest win of his career is just special, and it’s just special for me to be able to deliver that to him in a special way,” Hamlin said.
“I know he would have been happy with any one of his cars going out there and getting a victory, but obviously one with his son’s name on the door and number is probably a little more special.”
Hamlin on New Chris Gabehart
The 2019 running of the Daytona 500 was the first race for Hamlin and his new crew chief, Chris Gabehart. It’s hard to top winning on your first time together, but Hamlin was quick to give his new crew chief a lot of credit.
“…Chris is just so prepared — almost information overload,” Hamlin said.
“I have to temper him sometimes like, okay, I’ve got it, I’ve got it. I don’t need motivation. Thank you for the information. Of all the things that I need—but he’s just so prepared and he never leaves—just in the couple months I’ve worked with him, he’s just so meticulous about every detail and giving me all the information that I need to go out there and succeed, and so—that’s the kind of guy that you look for that can carry you a long way.”
Taking in the Win
Hamlin said he is taking his second Daytona 500 win in a little bit more than his 2016 win.
“I was just so—everything was just so crazy at the end of the 2016 race with the final lap, how it all played out,” Hamlin said.
“I couldn’t believe anything that happened. I was in awe the whole time. This one I actually—through the red flags and everything, I was kind of taking everything in.”
Asleep at the Wheel
Hamlin admitted he caught a few Z’s during the red flags.
“I fell asleep twice under a couple of the red flags because I was just relaxed,” he said.
“I knew what I needed to do, and I wasn’t going to venture off from that. So I wasn’t nervous about, hey, what if this happens, what if that happens. I knew in my head what I needed to do, and if the race worked out great for us, we were going to win. If it didn’t—I had put forth all the homework and done all the work to figure out where I needed to be, and I knew where I needed to be, and circumstances [were] going to dictate whether we won or not. So I was pretty relaxed the whole time and really taking all this in,” Hamlin added.
Hamlin, coming off of being sick, said he wasn’t going to celebrate too hard.
“I’m not going to get too crazy, but I want the team guys to really enjoy it,” Hamlin said.
“I mean, there’s a lot of new faces, a lot of the same faces that we’ve had that were here in 2016 that got to enjoy it, and I just never will forget celebrating with them and seeing how excited they were after winning a Daytona 500, because you just honestly never know. You’re a pit crew guy, you could be moved to another team, you don’t know if you don’t, will you ever win it again.”
Hamlin said it was important for the whole team to celebrate.
“I encouraged all those guys to really live in the moment and enjoy it because definitely—that was some of my fondest memories from the first one was spending it with the team guys.