Flag to Flag:  This 58th Daytona 500 will go down as a perfect mix of wild and tame, heartbreak and triumph. No. 11 Denny Hamlin wins in a spectacular finish - the closest in 500 history - on his 11th try in the Great American Race. Hamlin led the most laps on the day (95), but the final green flag pit stops around lap 156 shuffled Hamlin's Toyota from 1st to 7th, when Hamlin slid his tires in his box and the crew decided to change four tires, instead of two.

That set up about a 42-lap run to the finish with Hamlin teammates Matt Kenseth (finished 14th) and Kyle Busch (3rd) running 1st and 3rd and new Joe Gibbs Racing satellite team/driver Martin Truex Jr. (2nd) in 2nd. JGR's Carl Edwards (5th) rose to 4th around that time in a damaged No. 19 Toyota.

As the laps clicked down, Kenseth and company stayed mostly single-file on the low line, even through two different restarts. That plan to stay together won the organization the race, but not two-time 500 winner Kenseth.

On the last lap, Hamlin had worked into the top 5 with his teammates and broke camp for the high line. With Kevin Harvick (4th) leading the outside lane, Hamlin shot up with a full head of steam to block his charge. Kenseth had led the previous 40 laps and had kept urging his spotter on the radio to tell his teammates behind him to stay in line until the close to the end of that lap. Of course he said that and of course Hamlin didn't. As Hamlin closed on Kenseth, Kenseth threw a block, but Hamlin turned to the inside of him, knocking Kenseth out of line. Kenseth did a remarkable job keeping his car from wrecking.

Then as the field plowed through the tri-oval, Truex Jr. led the inside lane. But Hamlin side-drafted off of him enough to get a boost that put him across the finish line first by .01 seconds.

20 year-old rookie and Dawsonville, Georgia native Chase Elliott (37th) did not see his day turn out that way. He made his first qualifying attempt in the No. 24 count with the first pole of his Cup career. The now-retired Jeff Gordon won the pole in that same exact car a year ago and led many laps in the Daytona 500. Elliott tried to replicate Gordon's first 500 attempt as well, as both led their first ever-career laps in the race. But Elliott's teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. (36th) had other plans.

Earnhardt Jr., to a mighty roar from the crowd, led laps four thru 17, but got shuffled back on the pit sequence during the first caution of the day. That came at the hands of young Elliott on lap 19, who was the first of three drivers (Brian Vickers and Earnhardt Jr.) to simply get loose driving off the sharp Turn 4 banking onto the lesser-banked tri-oval. Elliott spun onto the paved flat and then clobbered the car's nose in the infield grass, prompting a long repair session in the garage.

As mentioned, Earnhardt Jr. befell the same fate on on lap 171, except that grass carnage ended his day. Brian Vickers also spun on lap 57, causing the field to check up and damage Edwards and the 2011 500 winner No. 6 Trevor Bayne (28th). All three continued on and finished on the lead lap.

Lap 93 saw a scary crash with two youngsters. No. 93 Matt DiBenedetto (40th) and rookie and 2015 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion No. 34 Chris Buescher (39th) got into each other in Turn 2 and wrecked hard in the outside wall. Both were slow getting out of their cars - in fact, DiBenedetto needed assistance dismounting from his BK Racing Toyota and he limped away. But both ended up okay.

Another fan favorite fell by the wayside on the final caution of the day on lap 185. No. 10 Danica Patrick (35th) turned across the nose of No. 16 Greg Biffle (34th), sending her into the backstretch grass and into the garage for repairs.

Hamlin took the lead for the first time on lap 24 and pretty much stayed in control of the race until the aforementioned drop back after the final pit stops. His teammate Ky. Busch snagged the lead from Jimmie Johnson (16th) on lap 92 and stayed there for 15 circuits. Johnson led before that for 18 laps, but got shuffled to the middle lane and never did come forward again. Johnson later sped on pit road and lost a lap for a while.

There were six cautions for 31 laps, but no "Big One." The only race of the three this weekend that had the major multi-car wreck was Friday night's Truck race. There were 20 lead changes with 15 different leaders, though most of these were during pit sequences. There were only two or three true green flag passes for the lead.

All that said, this Daytona 500 had plenty of ups and down and excitement and the finish will put it down as one of the most memorable in history.

The top 10 were: Hamlin; Truex Jr. (ran in top 5 most of day after starting in a backup car); Ky. Busch (near the front all day); Harvick (almost spun out early, never led a lap, but rallied late); Edwards (got damage twice and got to the front with the fenders blowing in the wind); Joey Logano (last year's winner never led a lap, but was very stout in draft); Kyle Larson (quiet day, got into lead draft in closing stages); Regan Smith (overheated the last 15 laps, but kept car in top 10); Austin Dillon (lost draft in first run, but ran in top 10 most of second half of race); Kurt Busch (constantly drove into top 10, but couldn't stay).

The points don't really matter right now, but Hamlin leads them and his win pretty much assures a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs. Hamlin said as much in the post-race press conference - that he and new crew chief Mike Wheeler can now try some things in their car setups to be good for the Chase.

RaceTweet: Denny Hamlin has the race won, then taken from him, then he gets it back: his first Daytona 500/first for Toyota/first for JGR since '93.

Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Denny Hamlin - Easy. He led 55 more laps then Kenseth and his crew got him off pit road first on almost every stop. Hamlin himself slid the tires on the final stop, prompting Wheeler to call for four tires. But the driver found a way to win it back on the last lap and for the good of Joe Gibbs Racing. And he made one whale of a move to both keep the competition behind and take his first 500. Now he already looks ahead to try and capture his first championship.

North Korean Missile Dud: Dale Earnhardt Jr. - He did lead twice for 15 laps and was projected as the race favorite. But after losing the lead early, he never could get with the JGR leaders and then when he tried, he wrecked. Overall, the No. 88 team had a great Speedweeks and Earnhardt Jr. personally had one - Elliott won Saturday's NXS race and other JR Motorsports cars ran well, then, too. But not closing the deal in the 500 certainly was a surprise and disappointment.

Never Fear, Underdog is Here: Regan Smith - Smith piloted the small-time Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 7 Chevy to an impressive 8th-place finish. Smith started 27th and never showed much luster during any practice. But he worked into the top 10 in the last 40 or 50 laps and stayed there, despite his engine overheating. Smith lost his NXS ride to Justin Allgaier and did not have this ride until late January. So far, so good. But as they all say in this industry, the real test is Atlanta Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile trick next week. That really shows where a team is.

Ghost Driver: Jamie McMurray - There were a lot of candidates for this today, but we will go with the 2010 Daytona 500 winner. McMurray is always fast on plate tracks and he barely cracked the top 10 the entire day and really never was a factor in anything in Speedweeks. He led no laps and finished a pedestrian 17th. Truly, cutting through the pack is much harder these days at plate races than in the past. The No. 1 team got their biggest visibility Sunday when some of the over-the-wall crew delivered Egg McMuffins (courtesy of sponsor McDonald's, of course) to us lard-os in the Media Center.

You Can Comeback, but You Can't Stay Here: Carl Edwards - He was on the edge of being the unluckiest gunner in the race. Instead, he battled back from damage in both the Elliott wreck and the worse Vickers scrum to stay with the lead draft. Then the No. 19 got the free pass. And then he navigated to the front with his JGR mates. Really, his day should have been curtains after those two wrecks. It almost was in the closing laps near the front of the field, when his repaired front fender started shaking more than a shirtless beer gut in the Daytona infield. Good rally. And his buddy John Cena was there to watch.

Wheel of Misfortune: Greg Biffle - Biffle cut a tire on lap 120 and brought out a caution. He lost a lap, then got it back, but then got big damage when Patrick turned across his nose on lap 185. Biffle ran in the top 10 for a while and had an outside chance of making some noise Sunday. Instead, he finished 34th.

Head-Scratcher Crown of Thorns: The 20 minute caution clock in the Camping World Truck Series made its cautiously (no pun intended) anticipated debut Friday night. And at least once it caused a cluster-fit. On lap 42, most of the field decided to pit just as the clock was winding down. The thought is that if a team pits and doesn't lose a lap, they gain track position when those that stay out pit under caution. With all the hustle and bustle and the utter lack of experience in the field, silver spooner youngsters Spencer Gallagher and Cody Coughlin made contact and wrecked entering pit road. The mess also damaged the No. 4 truck of rookie Christopher Bell.

This shouldn't be a strategy ploy on most tracks, but NASCAR should consider amending the caution clock or the pit rules when it winds down at tracks as big as Daytona.

NXS RaceTweet: Chase Elliott throws big block on Logano to win first plate race of NASCAR career. #GAdrivers struggled on the day besides that. Field strangely got strung out.

NCWTS RaceTweet: Johnny Sauter wins Chevy's first-ever Daytona Truck race with his new No. 21 GMS team. Ryan Truex gets a full-time shot and places 2nd.

Georgia On My Mind: There was almost too much to talk about on the Georgians' front at Daytona - and the news is very mixed.

First, Chase Elliott won the pole a week ago for the Daytona 500 and ran well in Thursday's Can-Am Duel race. He led the first three laps Sunday, but wrecked on lap 19, finishing 40 laps down in 37th. Saturday, however, he ran mid-pack most of the NXS race and ended up winning the thing in the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevy. Much like Sunday, that finish was amazing, as he threw a big block on Logano and they nearly wrecked crossing the start-finish line.

David Ragan was never fast in Speedweeks with his new No. 23 BK Racing team. But he kept a clean nose and started and finished 29th in the 500. His Triad Racing engine has less horsepower than his Roush-Yates or TRD power plants in the past.

Six Georgia drivers attempted the NXS race. Mark Thompson failed to qualify. Brandon Jones started and finished 7th in the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevy. He got damage in an early incident, but rebounded. As the field strung out, John Wes Townley's No. 05 Florida Lottery Chevy lost a lap and then got a speeding penalty, ending up 17th. Ryan Sieg and his No. 39 RSS Racing Chevy were in the same boat as Townley and finished 20th. And Chris Cockrum also lost touch with the leaders, getting the No. 25 Advanced Communications Group/Remembering Captain Herb/Rick Ware Racing Chevy a lap down. He lost two more after two pit road speeding penalties and placed 28th.

Townley was the only Georgia driver in the NCWTS race and he crashed and finished 26th. Reed Sorenson failed to qualify for both the NSCS and NCWTS races and failing to qualify for Friday's race with him were Korbin Forrister and Austin Hill. 11 Trucks went home Friday, as did eight NXS cars.

Next: All three series get back to reality on a track most drivers love - Atlanta Motor Speedway. Saturday's rare doubleheader sees the NXS Heads-Up 250 at 1:30 p.m. Saturday on FS1 and PRN and the NCWTS Great Clips 200 at 4:30 p.m. on the same networks. Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 is Sunday at 1 p.m. on FOX and PRN. Check with News 95.5FM/AM750 WSB for live updates all weekend and listen live for my race day show Sunday with Eric Von Haessler on WSB from 10-1.