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Denny Hamlin wins the Sprint Unlimited season opener with a series of big wrecks

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Denny Hamlin starts the season off right by winning the Sprint Unlimited this evening at Daytona International Speedway, opening the season the same way he ended the 2013 season with a victory.

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Hamlin won his second straight race since his recovery from a broken back at Auto Club Speedway late last March, within a few weeks Hamlin was back slowly starting in Talladega in May after having missed four races, and seven months after his injury, Hamlin gained a victory at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hamlin led during all three sections on six different occasions for 27 laps during the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race that featured 75 laps, and had only eight cars that remained on track at the end of the night. Hamlin darted away from the pack and drove to the checkered flag unchallenged.

“Any questions?” Hamlin asked over his team radio after he cross the finish line.

“The best car won, that’s for sure,” Hamlin said in victory lane. “That’s two in a row for us.”

Under clear skies and a full moon, more than half the field was obliterated in a wreck on Lap 35 during the second segment of the race.

It all began when Matt Kenseth, two-time Daytona 500 winner and 2003 Sprint Cup Champion, dove low to the inside and hit Joey Logano, causing them both to spin and created a multi-car crash.

Tony Stewart, who spent 6 months recovering after having shattered his right leg in August, was involved as Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and other drivers slammed into the #14 Mobil 1/Bass-Pro Shops Chevrolet.

Danica Patrick went into the grass to miss the spinning cars but spun out herself that ended with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. knocking the side off her car, after having slammed into Gordon and Kurt Busch that jacked their cars up in the air onto his hood.

“I has no idea (it was her, Danica),” Stenhouse Jr. said after leaving the infield care center. “It could have been a part or a jet dryer; I had no idea until I got in the infield care center.

“She was like, ‘Man, you drilled me.’ I was like, ‘Sorry. I didn’t know who I hit.’”

No one was injured in the multi-car pileup; Kenseth took the blame for the crash, saying he didn’t know Logano was on his inside.

“I feel bad I took out that many cars,” said Kenseth. “That’s not the way you want to start the season.”

The drama didn’t end there shortly after the NASCAR pace car caught fire, forcing Brett Bodine from the car under caution.

Kyle Busch made a dramatic move as he drifting down the track, resulting in bumping Brad Keselowski, causing the #18 M&M’s Toyota to spin. Busch, not surprising saved the car, with only minor damage to the nose of the car.

Four short laps after the restart, Marcos Ambrose bumped Dale Earnhardt Jr. and turned him into the wall, destroying any hope of Earnhardt Jr. going for the victory. Earnhardt Jr. showed his displeasure when he bumped the back of Ambrose’s car under caution.

“We just got turned into the wall,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We had a good car, but there’s a lot of torn up cars out there.”

Tomorrow, Sunday, February 16, 2014, the NASCAR Sprint Cup series will have Qualifying for the Daytona 500 at 1:00 p.m. eastern time.