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Hamlin Gives Toyota First-Ever Daytona 500 Win

  • Parke Brewer

Denny Hamlin celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016.

Denny Hamlin celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016.

A thrilling finish at the Daytona 500 in Florida - the biggest stock car race in the United States - saw American Denny Hamlin give Japanese automaker Toyota its first-ever victory Sunday.

Just when it appeared his countryman Matt Kenseth might become only the sixth driver to win the race three times since its inaugural event in 1959, Hamlin sped to the front on the home straight in the last of the 200 laps on the 2.5 mile (4 km) oval track. Kenseth led entering the final lap but faded to 14th after his Toyota got bumped and he narrowly avoided wrecking.

Hamlin edged Martin Truex Jr., also in a Toyota, by one-100th of a second, requiring a photo to determine the winner in the closest finish in Daytona 500 history. The average speed for the winner was just under 255 kilometers per hour.

Kyle Busch finished third, giving Toyota an unprecedented sweep of the podium. Kevin Harvick in a Chevrolet was fourth and Carl Edwards in another Toyota was fifth.

Grass flies in the air after Chase Elliott (24) spins during the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016.

Grass flies in the air after Chase Elliott (24) spins during the NASCAR Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016.

Chase Elliott, who had become the youngest driver to start on the pole position at age 20, was unable to finish the race after a crash.

It was the first victory for Hamlin in 11 tries at the Daytona 500, also known as "The Great American Race."

It also was the first in 23 years for the stable of drivers headed by former NFL coach Joe Gibbs, whose Joe Gibbs Racing team features Toyota engines. Toyota did not join the (U.S.) National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing - better known as NASCAR - until 2007.

The previous closest finish in the Daytona 500 was in 2007 when Harvick won by two-100ths of a second. In recent years, the Daytona 500 champion has won more than $1.5 million.

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