DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Matt Kenseth was one lap away from his third Daytona 500 victory.
In a flash, Kenseth lost it all Sunday — the lead, the win, even a top-10 finish.
Kenseth was rolling in the No. 20 Toyota, leading 40 straight laps with only one more to go to the checkered lap.
He just missed.
“There’s a million things you could do differently,” Kenseth said.
Kenseth was out front and leading Martin Truex Jr. until the final lap. Denny Hamlin, who was running fourth, jumped out of line, moved to the outside and caught Kenseth. Kenseth tried to throw a block, but Hamlin wedged into the middle between Kenseth and Truex. Kenseth drifted wider, toward the wall, and had to save his car from wrecking.
Kenseth, who won the Daytona 500 in 2009 and 2012, faded to 14th and saw teammate Hamlin win the big one for Joe Gibbs Racing.
“If I can’t win, I want my teammate to win,” Kenseth said. “That’s what being teammates is all about, is to get everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing running good and we did that today.”
Hamlin beat Truex by 0.010 seconds in the closest finish in the history of the race. Kenseth so badly wanted to be the driver to win JGR’s first Daytona 500 title since Dale Jarrett in 1993.
Kenseth said he wanted to hold the lead with one lap remaining.
“I wouldn’t trade that position for anybody in the whole field,” Kenseth said. “I didn’t really think the outside was going to muster up enough run to get it to be honest with you. Somehow, (Hamlin) just got a massive run. Hindsight I probably should have stayed in front of Martin and tried to race him back to the line. It looked like he was going so fast I could get in front of him and get a little boost and I just couldn’t.”