DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Rookie Austin Dillon, driving the iconic No. 3 Chevrolet, led the field to the green flag and led the opening lap of the 56th Daytona 500. He couldn't stay ahead very long, though.
Denny Hamlin took control early Sunday, passing Dillon on Lap 2. Having won the exhibition Sprint Unlimited last week and his qualifying race Thursday, Hamlin entered Sunday as a pre-race favorite. He would concede the lead to Kurt Busch a few laps later, as Hamlin's engine began overheating due to debris on the grille. The debris eventually fell off the No. 11 Toyota and Hamlin's engine temperatures returned to normal.
The first caution of the day waved on Lap 21, as rookie Kyle Larson shred a tire and skid through the Turn 2 grass. It was the second incident for Larson, who early had a similar issue and scraped the wall.
During the caution period, drivers made their initial pit stops as several prominent names experienced problems. Matt Kenseth spun harmlessly following contact from Trevor Bayne, while Danica Patrick nosed the front of her car into the wall after contact with Marcos Ambrose.
Hamlin regained the lead after passing Paul Menard following the subsequent restart.