Ham­lin writes fit­ting end for owner

Win ded­i­cated to late J.D. Gibbs, who dis­cov­ered driver of No. 11

San Francisco Chronicle - - PAGE 2 - By Jenna Fryer Jenna Fryer is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

DAY­TONA BEACH, Fla. — Denny Ham­lin came to the Day­tona 500 de­ter­mined to honor his late car owner with a vic­tory.

He de­liv­ered with a sto­ry­book trib­ute for Joe Gibbs Rac­ing.

Ham­lin won NASCAR’s big­gest race for the sec­ond time in four years Sun­day, lead­ing JGR in a 1-2-3 sweep of the podium in over­time. The race and the sea­son have been ded­i­cated to J.D. Gibbs, Joe Gibbs’ el­dest son who died last month af­ter deal­ing with a de­gen­er­a­tive neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­ease.

J.D. Gibbs helped his father start the race team, ran it while Joe Gibbs was coach­ing Wash­ing­ton’s NFL team, was a tire changer on the team’s first Day­tona 500 vic­tory and dis­cov­ered Ham­lin dur­ing a test ses­sion at Hick­ory Mo­tor Speed­way in North Carolina. Ham­lin was hired to drive the No. 11 — the num­ber J.D. Gibbs used when he played foot­ball — and J.D. Gibbs’ name is on the Toy­ota.

When Ham­lin stopped his car along the front stretch to col­lect the check­ered flag, he cred­ited J.D. Gibbs.

“The whole fam­ily, they did so much for me over the course of my ca­reer, and this one is for J.D,” Ham­lin said.

He was met in vic­tory lane by the Gibbs fam­ily, in­clud­ing J.D.’s widow and four sons.

“He meant a lot to me, and it’s hard for me not get­ting choked up be­cause I’ve been choked up about 100 times about it,” Ham­lin said. “Just to have Melissa (Gibbs) and all the kids here, it’s just crazy.”

Joe Gibbs, the Hall of Fame NFL head coach with three Su­per Bowl vic­to­ries, ranked the trib­ute win to his son first in his ca­reer ac­com­plish­ments. J.D. Gibbs en­cour­aged his father to move the team from a crowded Chevro­let camp to be­come Toy­ota’s flag­ship team in 2008, and the Day­tona 500 win was the 100th for JGR in a Camry.

“It is the most emo­tional and big­gest win I’ve ever had in my life, in any­thing,” Gibbs said. “It was the most im­por­tant night in my oc­cu­pa­tional life. I know J.D., and every­body in my fam­ily was emo­tional.”

Kyle Busch and Erik Jones fin­ished sec­ond and third as JGR be­came the sec­ond team in NASCAR his­tory to sweep the Day­tona 500 podium. Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports did it in 1997 with Jeff Gor­don, Terry Labonte and Ricky Craven.

The Cup Se­ries slogged through three unin­spir­ing ex­hi­bi­tion races dur­ing Speed­weeks to cause con­cern over a po­ten­tially dis­ap­point­ing main event. Jim France, who be­came chair­man of NASCAR in Au­gust, used the pre-race driver meet­ing to ask the driv­ers to liven up the ac­tiv­ity. Ham­lin and Chase El­liott were the rare driv­ers to use the bot­tom lane in the ex­hi­bi­tion races while the rest of the field ran sin­gle-file along the top.

“I hope a few of you driv­ers out there will get down on the bot­tom with Denny and Chase and put on a good show to­day,” France told the field.

The driv­ers obeyed and de­liv­ered an ac­tion-packed and wreck-filled run­ning of “The Great Amer­i­can Race.”

There was an ac­ci­dent on pit road, a 21-car crash, 12 cau­tions and five wrecks in the fi­nal 20 laps of reg­u­la­tion. The race was stopped twice for cleanup to­tal­ing nearly 40 min­utes in the fi­nal stretch.

Ham­lin and Busch al­ter­nated as the lead­ers dur­ing the hand­ful of late restarts, and the fi­nal rush to the check­ered flag was a push to hold off Ford driver and reign­ing NASCAR cham­pion Joey Logano. The Ford camp went 1-2-3 in both of Thurs­day’s qual­i­fy­ing races and was fa­vored to win the Day­tona 500.

Logano, who started his ca­reer at JGR, set­tled for fourth and also took a mo­ment to honor J.D. Gibbs.

“I’m not a Gibbs driver, but for what J.D. has done for my ca­reer is the rea­son why I’m sit­ting here to­day,” Logano said. “As bad as I want to win it, it is pretty cool to think that the first race af­ter his pass­ing, to see those guys one, two, three, it just says he’s up there watch­ing and maybe gave (those) guys a lit­tle ex­tra boost there at the end.”

Michael McDow­ell was fifth in a Ford but ag­gra­vated Logano by not work­ing with him in the two-lap over­time sprint to the fin­ish.

“I just told him that my team doesn’t pay me to push Joey Logano to a win,” McDow­ell said.

Wil­liam By­ron and Alex Bow­man were the youngest front row in race his­tory but had lit­tle to show for it af­ter the race. Bow­man fin­ished 11th and By­ron, the pole-sit­ter, was 21st.

Sean Gardner / Getty Images

Denny Ham­lin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Ex­press Toy­ota, cel­e­brates with a burnout af­ter win­ning the Day­tona 500.

Stephen M. Dowell / TNS / Or­lando Sen­tinel

Ham­lin, cel­e­brat­ing in a flurry of con­fetti in Vic­tory Lane, ded­i­cated the vic­tory to his late team owner, J.D. Gibbs.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.