DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. – Matt 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.
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.
"Somehow, [Hamlin] just got a massive run," Kenseth said. "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."
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.
Hendrick team struggles
Pole-sitter Chase Elliott's run at Daytona ended in the grass only 19 laps in, the first Hendrick Motor- sports driver to have his day spoiled. Two-time Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashed out and matched his worst finish in the race. Kasey Kahne and two-time Daytona 500 champ Jimmie Johnson were never serious threats to the Joe Gibbs Racing fleet.
Team owner Rick Hendrick has won the season-opening race eight times. Johnson and Earnhardt went back to back in 2013 and '14. But after lagging behind Gibbs and Team Penske for most of last season, the four Hendrick cars opened with an inauspicious start. Kahne was 13th, Johnson 16th, Earnhardt 36th, and Elliott 37th.
Elliott replaced four-time champion Jeff Gordon in the iconic No. 24.