This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.
The 2020 NASCAR Cup series season-opening race faced a rare postponement until Monday afternoon, but Denny Hamlin survived the weather and the wrecks, rising to the top to edge out Ryan Blaney in one of the closest Daytona 500 finishes in history. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. started the race from pole on Sunday and led the first 20 laps until rain forced the delay. Initially, the Toyota drivers dropped to the rear to save fuel and avoid trouble. That move put them in prime position for the second stage, though. Once the race moved to less than 50 laps remaining, things became more of a matter of survival, though. Multiple multicar crashes left few of the favorites on track with undamaged cars, and the night ended with a scary crash that sent Ryan Newman to the hospital.
Hamlin, like last season, now heads to the second race of the season with one foot already in the playoff battle. He made it all the way to the finale in 2019 only to lose the championship to teammate Kyle Busch and he won't want to suffer the same fate twice. Joe Gibbs Racing was the dominant team that season and Hamlin has got them off on similar footing this season, too.
Denny Hamlin – Hamlin and the Toyota contingent made a conservative start to the Daytona 500 by dropping to the rear and conserving fuel in the first stage. That enabled them to make up track position for the start of stage