If you win the Daytona 500, you’re going to get a lot of attention. But if you win the Daytona 500 by one one-hundredth of a second, well, you’re going to get a whole lot of attention.
“It just shows how big of a stage and how big of a race this was,” Daytona winner Denny Hamlin said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Obviously it’s not just the Daytona 500, but (it’s) the closest finish in history. It should give our sport a lot of momentum going forward now.”
Hamlin, who has given scores of interviews this week, surged ahead of the pack on the last lap this past Sunday, edging out Martin Truex Jr. by the slimmest of margins.
“Things change dramatically, even to the last half of a lap of the race,” Hamlin said. “But I was using a lot of different air in different ways. I know that’s hard to explain, but I got a push from the guy that was behind me. I just was building a lot of energy and momentum going into that final corner and it kind of all came to a head. I think Matt (Kenseth) was the leader at the time. He made a move to try and block, and I kind of averted that and looked through the middle. It was just an interesting chain of events for sure.”
Hamlin and Truex bumped each other several times during the final lap.
“It was interesting because we are inside of a car where we can’t see a whole lot left or right of us,” Hamlin said. “We’re focused straight out front. You can feel the car beside you, but I really couldn’t see where he was relative to me. So it was kind of awhile there before we knew we had won. But you can feel it. As a driver, someone that’s experienced, you get a feel for where those cars are at, and I knew it was really close at the end.”
So if you thought the final lap looked crazy, it felt just as crazy for Hamlin. Probably even crazier.
“No question,” he said. “Everyone who says it was a wild finish, I’m like, ‘You should have been in my seat.’ It was definitely amazing. I wish I could do that whole final lap again in slow motion with the same outcome to kind of enjoy it a little bit more, but just this huge swing of emotions at the very end was great.”