Hamlin's chance at Daytona 500 history ends with top-five

Denny Hamlin was hoping to become the first driver in NASCAR history to win three straight Daytona 500s. Despite a dominant showing Sunday, it just wasn't meant to be.

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Hamlin led a race-high 98 of 200 laps and won both Stage 1 and Stage 2.

However, the three-time Daytona 500 champion found himself in a bad position following the final set of green-flag pit stops. Manufacturers were pitting in groups separately, a disadvantage to Toyota as they are outnumbered by their rivals.

Combine that with the fact that the Toyota drivers were not able to stay together exiting the pits and Hamlin was suddenly at the rear of the lead pack with an uphill battle in front of him.

“We were too far out front," Hamlin admitted. "We got on-and-off pit road too good. I was just too far ahead of the pack. I figured the Chevys would make a move from two or three to go, because they are not going to win on the last lap from fifth or sixth. I was able to gain some positions. I think I was 12th and everybody was running single file, so it handcuffed me. I couldn’t really do anything. I hoped once I got to eighth as long as they make a move with two to go, I’m in the energy – in the area where I can make something happen.

"Dominant car, just a dominant car. Just one of those things that execute too good.”

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Despite falling outside the top-ten, he was still able to claw his way back through the field. In the chaos of the final lap, he was able to snag fifth-place. The comeback was an impressive one, but not enough to make history in NASCAR's most prestigious race.

“I didn’t see (what happened at the end), I was too far back," Hamlin said of the fiery last-lap crash that ended the race. "We didn’t execute too good on pit road. It was just like the 125 (Duel race). We came out in front of everybody, and didn’t have any help to get up to speed. They all blew by us because they were single file, so it just took away the power that I got and that’s getting through traffic. The fact we came back to fifth there from 12th on the last couple of laps is pretty good. Dominant car.”

Hamlin leaves SpeedWeeks second in the championship standings. Next week, the Cup Series returns to Daytona International Speedway to compete on the road course.

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