DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (CBS Sports/WBTV) - Denny Hamlin is the winner after a thrilling and grueling Daytona 500 that took two days, and overtime; and saw multiple caution flags in the final 16 laps and OT.
It’s the third time Hamlin has won the Daytona 500, and he is the first driver to win back-to-back years at the Great American Race since Sterling Marlin in 1994 and 1995. Hamlin also becomes the sixth driver to win the Daytona 500 three times, joining Richard Petty (7), Cale Yarborough (4), and Bobby Allison, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett (3).
The celebration in victory lane was muted after Hamlin’s win because of a crash on the final lap of the green-white-checker finish that saw Ryan Newman’s car go airborne and flip on the track several times after jockeying for position with Hamlin and Ryan Blaney coming out of turn four.
Before going off the air, the Fox television broadcast said that Newman was being taken by ambulance to a Daytona area hospital. Newman was looking for his second Daytona 500 win, after capturing the title in 2008.
A couple of race fans traveled to Roush Fenway headquarters in Concord Monday night to show their support for Newman. Newman is a driver for Roush Fenway.
Chris Strausbaugh said he moved to the Charlotte area strictly so he could be closer to professional racing. He was watching the Daytona 500 and saw the wreck involving Newman.
“My heart sank. I covered my mouth. Again, I don’t mean to repeat myself but I feel a lot like I did the day Dale Earnhardt died,” explained Strausbaugh.
He offered kind words about the injured driver.
“I idolize NASCAR drivers and Ryan is one I’ve seen since I was little until adulthood and I just want the best for him and obviously hope he pulls through,” said Strausbaugh.
Liam Brotherton, an aspiring driver, said he was fearing the worst when he saw the crash, but was happy to learn Newman’s injuries were non-life-threatening.
“I came here fearing the worst and just hoping that I would find some peace here and to hear that he’s alright is just incredible,” said Brotherton.
Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, took time to speak to WBTV after flying into the Concord Regional Airport Monday night. Gibbs’ driver, Hamlin, won the race. Gibbs said he was in the winner’s circle when he got word that Newman had been badly injured.
“After a few minutes in there we were celebrating and then the word came to us, so I think for all of us and everybody in the racing community, the NASCAR community, we’re all praying for Ryan and certainly he’s got our prayers going with him. Everybody’s traveling and everybody’s concerned about it, so we’ll continue to pray and hopefully we get a good report,” said Gibbs.
Newman is expected to be OK, according to a team’s statement.