In a crazy and possibly tragic finish to Monday’s Daytona 500, Denny Hamlin bucked the odds.
Hamlin, in a close finish, just edged Ryan Blaney to win “The Great American Race’’ for the second straight year. The Tampa-born Hamlin, racing for the Joe Gibbs team, became the first driver to repeat at Daytona since Sterling Marin did so in 1994-95.
Hamlin, who went off the favorite at odds of 8-1, was the second choice of “The Eckel 3’’ and was the first choice of one of the three “expers’’, Scott “Tobacco Road’’ Baker. Blaney, who was a 16-1 longshot, was also listed as a driver to watch in the story posted on Bettors Insider Saturday evening.
The race postponed from Sunday after 20 laps because of rain, featured several lead changes through the first 184 laps. Then it got crazy over the final 16 laps, which included five crashes that wiped out more than two-thirds of the 40-man field.
Ryan Newman, who finished ninth, was hit three times just before the finish and according to Fox announcer Mike Joy was airlifted to a local hospital.
Newman, 43, from South Bend, was battling for the lead with Hamlin and Blaney when his No. 6 Ford took a hard right and slammed into the outside wall in an impact with the left front.
Newman’s car went airborne and was upside down when hit in the driver’s side door by Corey LaJoie‘s Ford at full speed, causing the Mustang to slide a few hundred feet on its roof.
Safety workers arrived on the scene and took between 10 and 15 minutes to remove Newman from the car. Fox didn’t show any replays of him being removed from the car and also didn’t provide any information on his condition.
“Ryan Newman has been helped from his car by the AMR safety team, loaded into an ambulance and taken to a local hospital,” Joy said on the Fox broadcast. “That’s all the information we can provide at this time.”
Fox analyst Jeff Gordon added that “it was a phenomenal race all the way until we came into the tri-oval there. Safety has come a long way in this sport, but sometimes we are reminded that it is a very dangerous sport. Thoughts and prayers right now are with Ryan Newman and his family.”