DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (NASCAR Wire Services) — Denny Hamlin survived a war of attrition to win Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season-opening exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway.
The winner of all three segments of the 75-lap event, Hamlin was running up front and out of harm’s way when a wreck halved the field early in the second segment.
And on a night when the pace car caught fire and had to be abandoned between the second and final segments, Hamlin won the race with a three-wide move on the backstretch on the next-to-last lap at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
The event was decided in a five-lap dash after a Lap 66 collision with Marcos Ambrose in Turn 1 eliminated the No. 88 Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had surrendered the lead to Joey Logano two laps earlier.
Brad Keselowski ran second, followed by Kyle Busch, Logano and Kevin Harvick, whose No. 4 Chevrolet was damaged in the nine-car wreck that punctuated segment No. 2.
“The best car won — that’s for sure,” said Hamlin, who won the last race of the 2013 season, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “Two in a row now. We’re building on something. That was survival of the fittest, that’s for sure.
“With three (laps) to go, we were at the tail end of a very small pack, and it’s really hard to get runs. But this car was phenomenal.”