When all the smoke cleared after the opening weekend of NASCAR’s 2019 season at Daytona International Speedway, there were two first time winners – Austin Hill in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series and Michael Annett in the XFINITY Series – and a disappointed Kyle Busch after teammate Denny Hamlin garnered his second Daytona 500 win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Austin Hill Wins Wreck-Fest Truck Race
The NASCAR Gander Outdoor Next Era Energy 250 started out with disappointment for Natalie Decker when a brake line on her truck caught fire on Lap 3. During that caution a crew member was hit by a truck on pit road. The rest of Stage 1, won by Sheldon Creed in the #2, and Stage 2, won by #13 Johnny Sauter, and the first 15 laps of the final stage went by with little in the way of excitement.
Then “The Big One” hit, taking out 11 trucks, and it was on. Caution #10 on Lap 98 was another Big One with ten more trucks involved, nine of which were unable to continue. That left only ten trucks to compete for the win in NASCAR Overtime. Another caution took out two more trucks. That made a new record of 11 cautions. Austin Hill was able to take his Hattori Racing Enterprises #16 to victory lane at the end of the second OT session for the first win of his career. Grant Enfinger drove the #98 to second and Ross Chastain drove the #45 to third.
Michael Annett Gets First Win of Career, Sixth Daytona Win for Junior Motorsports
The NASCAR XFINITY Experience 300 started with Earnhardt, Dale Jr’s nephew Jeffrey, starting on the pole. It then settled into a relative Snoozefest with Justin Haley in the #11 winning a quiet Stage 1 and Ross Chastain in the #30 winning an equally quiet Stage 2. Two quick cautions later Michael Annett pumped the crowd up by taking and holding the lead against teammate Justin Allgaier to get the first win of his career and the sixth Daytona win for Junior Motorsports.
Denny Hamlin Earns Second Daytona 500
The NASCAR world was shaken by the recent passing of JD Gibbs, the man who brought Denny Hamlin to Joe Gibbs Racing. Denny had dedicated this Daytona 500 to his memory in pre-race interviews. Denny did his sponsor proud by earning his second Daytona 500 victory with grit and determination. In doing so he also put teammate Kyle Busch one loss closer to equaling Dale Earnhardt’s 19 tries before finally winning the 500.
Stages 1 (#18 Kyle Busch) and 2 (#12 Ryan Blaney) resembled those of Saturday’s XFINITY race, although the last few laps of the first stage saw some good racing action up near the front. Then there was an explosion of cautions, with Lap 190 seeing the tenth of the race being “The Big One.” The red flag was thrown to clean up the carnage of 18 damaged cars.
Pole sitter William Byron in the Hendrick Motorsports #24 remained competitive until he was involved in the second Big One of the race on Lap 194, involving another seven cars. The 12th caution of the race brought on NASCAR Overtime. Two tries later Denny beat Kyle, and teammate Erik Jones, who everyone thought was done earlier when he had fuel delivery problems, fought back to take third place in the #20. It made for a sweet sweep of the top three spots for JGR on this emotionally-trying weekend.