Denny Hamlin wins opening Daytona race for 3rd time

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Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway on February 13, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Denny Hamlin has given Joe Gibbs Racing yet another victory to open Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway.

Hamlin won exhibition Sprint Unlimited on Saturday night for the third time in his career. JGR drivers have won this short sprint for three consecutive years and four of the last five.

Hamlin overcame early damage to his Toyota to score his first victory with new crew chief Mike Wheeler, who was a longtime engineer for the No. 11 team before his promotion.

Winning this exhibition race doesn’t always translate into Daytona 500 success. The last driver to win the opening race and the 500 was Dale Jarrett in 2000.