“A Great Story” – Denny Hamlin Breaks Down Unexpected Hendrick 1-2 Finish at Daytona

Published 02/22/2024, 5:34 PM EST

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USA Today via Reuters

Veteran NASCAR driver and team owner, Denny Hamlin knows a thing or two about the sport’s dramatic twists and turns. But even he couldn’t quite predict the “great story” that unfolded at the 2024 Daytona 500. While his own race with the #11 team of Joe Gibbs Racing, ended with a 19th-place finish, Hamlin couldn’t help but be impressed by the unprecedented dominance of Hendrick Motorsports, who swept the top two positions and surprised everyone with their strategic masterclass.

The victory was a dream come true for Hendrick Motorsports and Rick Hendrick, coinciding perfectly with their 40th-anniversary celebration. It wasn’t just a win; it was a 1-2 finish, mirroring the organization’s past triumphs in 1989, 1997, and 2013. This feat, achieved by #24 William Byron and #48 Alex Bowman, marked the ninth Daytona 500 triumph for HMS, tying them with Petty Enterprises for the most victories in the 500.

Denny Hamlin Reflects on Hendrick Motorsports’ historic Daytona 500 Sweep


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On the flipside of the celebratory champagne, Denny Hamlin faced a rollercoaster of emotions in a bid to clinch his 4th Harley J. Earl Trophy. Starting strong in eighth, the 43-year-old dropped 11 places, leading for 10 laps but finishing 19th, 27.3 seconds behind the winner. Despite 998 laps led in the previous season and finishing third in the points standings, Hamlin’s quest to join the iconic Cale Yarborough (the only person to win the 500 four times) in NASCAR history books, was thwarted by the late-race ‘Big One,’ courtesy of aggressive maneuvering by the aforementioned HMS frontrunners, Bowman and Byron.

Nevertheless, Hamlin who experienced the intensity of the record-breaking 2024 Daytona 500 firsthand, was quick to acknowledge HMS’ historic achievements and the emotions attached to it on his podcast. He said, Hendrick Motorsports, give them their due, 40th anniversary for them. I think to the day, and what was really fun for me to watch is, and I can understand it, and respect it because JGR, we went through this in my 2019 win with JD, you know, how much it means to the organization.”

“You saw Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick, and all these dignitaries from Hendrick, how excited they were that they had just won the Daytona 500 and not only just won it but also had a one-two finish.”

“So you saw how much it means to them and surely to be on the 40th anniversary of them starting Hendrick Motorsports.”

Despite the late-stage pileups and questionable driving claims circulating post-Daytona, Hamlin went on to commend Byron and Bowman individually. “For them to get a win is a great story and it’s just a fantastic ending for them and well deserved. They did everything they needed to do, they kept themselves in the game while William didn’t dominate the race. He put himself upfront when it counted, same with Alex Bowman right? He didn’t dominate the race but he put himself in contention…”


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Is there a new HMS era dawning in NASCAR?


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Historically, a Hendrick 1-2 in the Daytona 500 has been a precursor to a HMS driver winning the NASCAR Cup Series championship that year. Could 2024 witness William Byron or Alex Bowman following in the footsteps of Hendrick Motorsports legends like Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon, and seven-time Cup winner Jimmie Johnson?

The co-owner of 23XI racing alongside ‘Big Mike,’ Michael Jordan, also addressed the performances of the other two Hendrick drivers individually, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, stating, “Actually thought that Chase Elliott showed the most speed of all the Hendrick cars throughout the day. A close runner-up is the #5 of Kyle Larson. He looked fast all week, he made the most aggressive moves and kept himself up front but it was the two guys that kind of laid in the weed all day that ended up with a one-two finish.”


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As the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season gathers pace, another unique feature awaits – back-to-back races on drafting tracks since 1998. Atlanta Motor Speedway will host the second race of the season, the Ambetter Health 400. Hendrick Motorsports, with five victories on drafting tracks since the introduction of the Next Gen race car in 2022, will be looking to face this challenge head-on. Will 2024 be the year of Hendrick Motorsports championship glory? The NASCAR saga continues at full throttle.


Written by:

Amman Augustin


One take at a time

Amman Augustin is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. With his coverage majorly focusing on the lavish off-track lives of drivers, Amman often brings the lesser-known side of Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick to their fans. Another aspect of NASCAR where he flourishes is covering rivalries between competitors.
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Edited by:

Ranvijay Singh