Denny Hamlin survived three big wrecks inside the final 20 laps and won with a dramatic final pass in overtime in the weather-delayed Daytona 500 on Monday night, but the bigger news was the health of driver Ryan Newman, who was involved in a terrifying wreck on the final lap.
Hamlin edged Ryan Blaney by 0.014 in one of the closest Daytona 500 finishes ever, but the attention quickly turned to the health of Newman, whose wreck was one of the most spectacular and ominous in the annual race.
Newman overtook Hamlin with a push from Blaney in the final lap, but Hamlin roared back around the final turn. He nudged Blaney, who then hit Newman in the bumper and sent his car into the wall and then airborne.
Newman’s car then was slammed into on the driver’s side by Corey LaJoie after it came down on its roof. The impact sent Newman’s car careening down the track on its roof, with sparks and flames shooting out.
More than two hours of silence followed after the accident, with the sports world fearing the worst and Hamlin’s victory celebration tempered and muted.
Newman was taken to a local hospital and NASCAR put a statement out shortly after 10 p.m. that Newman’s injuries were substantial, but that he was going to live.
Here is the final lap of the Daytona 500 in which Ryan Newman's car was flipped at the line.— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) February 18, 2020
We will continue to keep you updated on his status as we learn more. pic.twitter.com/qkEwQBpoP0
The NASCAR world could finally exhale.
The final 180 laps were run Monday after rain limited the start on Sunday to just 20 laps.
The win was Hamlin’s third Daytona 500, joining victories in 2016 and ’19. Hamlin is the first driver to win back-to-back Daytona 500s since Sterling Marlin in 1994 and ’95.
He won in the two-lap overtime shootout after the race went off of two cautions.
No 500 would be complete without The Big One.
Hamlin sneaked by Ryan Newman with three laps to go right before the second Big One wreck of the finish. Ross Chastain, running seventh at the time, lost control, dipped low and then veered right and into the middle of the top five and triggered another wreck.
After the restart, Michael McDowell and Clint Bowyer wrecked almost immediately to trigger another caution.
It was a lengthy final 20 laps, triggered by the first Big One on Lap 181.
Brad Keselowski was bumped from behind by Aric Almirola and Joey Logano and sent into the wall. The wreck claimed about 17 drivers, with a handful unable to return.
Jimmie Johnson, who was making his last Daytona 500 start after announcing his intentions to retire after the season, was one of the drives who was unable to return.