Thursday night marked the Budweiser Duel at Daytona, the twin 60-lap qualifying races that set the field at Daytona International Speedway for Sunday's Daytona 500. Matt Kenseth won Duel 1 and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin won Duel 2. Along with them finding victory lane, the full 43-car field was decided for the Daytona 500.
The second Duel race ended in an accident off Turn 4 when Jimmie Johnson ran out of gas. Six other cars were collected, all of which still made the Daytona 500 field, but they will all have to go to back up cars.
Duel 1 started with Daytona 500 pole sitter Austin Dillon leading the field to the green in the No. 3 Chevrolet. If he finished in the top 15 then the top 16 cars of the 24 in Duel 1 would make the Daytona 500 by transferring in with their finishing position. If Dillon finished outside the top 15 then only the top 15 would transfer in. The other cars would need to fall back to qualifying speed or provisionals to get into the 500 field. Dave Blaney was scheduled to start in Duel 1 but due to a practice crash that destroyed his No. 77 Ford his Randy Humphrey owned team withdrew due to not having a back up car.
Dillon led up to lap 15 when Dale Earnhardt Jr jumped to the low line that had formed and went to the lead. Reed Sorenson had an issue that he thought was a flat tire but later ended up being a break caliber rubbing one of his wheels which ended his race. He would have to wait and see if his No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing team would make the Daytona 500 field another way.
On lap 28 Matt Kenseth took the lead and he led until green flag pit stops started on lap 36 with Kenseth bringing about half the field down. On lap 37 Earnhardt Jr brought the rest of the lead pack cars down to pit. Teams went with an array of strategy that included fuel only, two tires, and four tires. Joe Nemechek had lost the lead draft and pitted from the lead on lap 39. The running order after the stops was Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose, and Aric Almirola.
As the field took the white flag Kenseth still led over Harvick, Kahne, Earnhardt Jr, and Ambrose. Coming off Turn 4 Harvick dove low with a run on Kenseth but the driver of the No. 20 Toyota side-drafted Harvick in the No. 4 Chevrolet and the two moved up the track. That allowed Kahne to get to the low side of both of them and at the line it was Kenseth who edged out Harvick and Kahne in the three-wide finish.
"It's huge for me and my family. Shoot we're going to the Daytona 500 so I don't know what to say, I'm sure my dad is around here super excited and got a lot of family coming into town so it means a lot," Bowman said of making his first Daytona 500.
In post race inspection Kevin Harvick's car failed and he was credited with a 24th place finish in Duel 1. The track bar on his car was found to be outside the rules. That moved Brian Vickers up to the final transfer spot in 15th.
The official finishing order of Duel 1 after Harvick's penalty was Matt Kenseth with the win, Kasey Kahne second, Marcos Ambrose third, Dale Earnhardt Jr fourth, Josh Wise fifth, Aric Almirola sixth, AJ Allmendinger seventh, David Gilliland eighth, Ryan Newman ninth, and Tony Stewart tenth. Cole Whitt was 11th, Greg Biffle 12th, Danica Patrick 13th, Alex Bowman 14th, and Brian Vickers 15th. Those drivers locked into the Daytona 500 field no matter what happened in Duel 2. Finishing 16th was Joey Logano, 17th was Parker Kligerman, Austin Dillon 18th, Ricky Stenhouse Jr 19th, Kyle Busch 20th, Michael McDowell 21st, Joe Nemechek 22nd, Reed Sorenson 23rd, and Kevin Harvick 24th.
Cole Whitt's drive into the field was a great story as his Swan racing No. 26 Toyota had to be repaired after crashing in practice on Wednesday. He was going to go to a back up car for this Duel race but Swan Racing only had one back up car in Daytona and when his teammate Parker Kligerman's car was destroyed in another practice crash when he got into the catch fence the team needed to use the back up for him instead of Whitt.
Duel Race 2 was again 24 cars with Martin Truex Jr, the driver who locked into the Daytona 500 by being second fastest in Sunday's single car qualifying, leading the field to green. If he finished inside the top 15 then the top 16 would transfer to the Daytona 500 and if he finished outside the top 15 then the top 15 would make it.
Truex Jr led lap 1 but it was Brad Keselowski who used the low line to pass him and take the lead on lap 2. By lap 15 Keselowski led a single file line of Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Brian Scott, Kurt Busch, Landon Cassill, Casey Mears, David Ragan, Kyle Larson, and Jamie McMurray.
Keselowski still led at lap 36 when he led all but two cars down pit road for green flag stops. Denny Hamlin and Casey Mears pitted on lap 37. Keselowsi was hit with a speeding off pit road penalty and had to serve a pass through penalty. After the stops were completed it was Denny Hamlin in the lead out ahead of Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Jamie McMurray. Eric McClure also had a long pit stop and the crew was fixing some damage that his car sustained.
Terry Labonte and Bobby Labonte had also lost the draft after the pit stops along with Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, Ryan Truex, Morgan Shepherd, Eric McClure, and Brad Keselowski.
On lap 41 Keselowski limped back to the pit lane with a flat tire caused when he slid his tires coming in to make his pass through speeding penalty.
The front group ran the same way until two laps to go when Casey Mears ran out of gas. He limped back to the pits and got refueled for the final lap.
Things started to get dicey on the final lap as Jimmie Johnson tried to make a move from fourth. Coming out of Turn 4 Johnson was on the high side with Jamie McMurray following closely. Johnson's car sputtered as it was running out of gas and then McMurray got into the back of him putting both into the outside wall. When they spun back across the track they collected others like Clint Bowyer. Bowyer's car did a full flip and landed back on its wheels in amazing fashion. Also collected with heavy damage were Martin Truex Jr, Michael Waltrip, David Ragan, and Carl Edwards. Ryan Truex and Justin Allgaier, who were lap cars but in the pack also sustained minimal damage.
To line Denny Hamlin held off Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch to win Duel 2.
Paul Menard finished fourth, Brian Scott fifth, and Trevor Bayne sixth. Seventh went to Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr came across the line in eighth on fire. Ninth was Landon Cassill and Clint Bowyer came across the line in tenth on pit road. Jamie McMurray was scored 11th, Terry Labonte 12th, Bobby Labonte 13th, Casey Mears 14th, Carl Edwards 15th, and Jimmie Johnson 16th. Those drivers transferred by finishing position. Finishing 17th was David Ragan, Michael Waltrip was 18th, Ryan Truex 19th, Justin Allgaier 20th, Michael Annett 21st, Morgan Shepherd 22nd, Eric McClure 23rd, and Brad Keselowski 24th.
Martin Truex Jr will officially be listed as as the second place starter for the Daytona 500 but will have to go to the back for the start due to going to a back up car after being caught in the last lap crash. Also going to the back in back up cars due to the crash are Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards, David Ragan, and Michael Waltrip. Tony Stewart, Danica Partick, and Bobby Labonte will also go to the back due to changing engines in last Saturday's practice.
The starting lineup for the 56th running of the Daytona 500 is as follows: * means going to the back for the start
|Position||Car #||Driver||Team||How They Qualified|
|1||3||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Won Pole Position|
|2||78||*Martin Truex Jr*||Furniture Row Racing||Qualified 2nd Quick|
|3||20||Matt Kenseth||Joe Gibbs Racing||Won Duel 1|
|4||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Won Duel 2|
|5||5||Kasey Kahne||Hendrick Motorsports||2nd in Duel 1|
|6||24||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports||2nd in Duel 2|
|7||9||Marcos Ambrose||Richard Petty Motorsports||3rd in Duel 1|
|8||41||Kurt Busch||Stewart-Haas Racing||3rd in Duel 2|
|9||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr||Hendrick Motorsports||4th in Duel 1|
|10||27||Paul Menard||Richard Childress Racing||4th in Duel 2|
|11||98||Josh Wise||Phil Parsons Racing||5th in Duel 1|
|12||33||Brian Scott||Richard Childress Racing||5th in Duel 2|
|13||43||Aric Almirola||Richard Petty Motorsports||6th in Duel 1|
|14||21||Trevor Bayne||Wood Brothers Racing||6th in Duel 2|
|15||47||AJ Allmendinger||JTG/Daughtery Racing||7th in Duel 1|
|16||42||Kyle Larson||Chip Ganassi Racing||7th in Duel 2|
|17||38||David Gilliland||Front Row Motorsports||8th in Duel 1|
|18||40||Landon Cassill||Circle Sport Racing||9th in Duel 2|
|19||31||Ryan Newman||Richard Childress Racing||9th in Duel 1|
|20||15||*Clint Bowyer*||Michael Waltrip Racing||10th in Duel 2|
|21||14||*Tony Stewart*||Stewart-Haas Racing||10th in Duel 1|
|22||1||*Jamie McMurray*||Chip Ganassi Racing||11th in Duel 2|
|23||26||Cole Whitt||Swan Racing||11th in Duel 1|
|24||32||Terry Labonte||GO FAS Racing||12th in Duel 2|
|25||16||Greg Biffle||Roush Fenway Racing||12th in Duel 1|
|26||52||*Bobby Labonte*||HScott Motorsports||13th in Duel 2|
|27||10||*Danica Patrick*||Stewart-Haas Racing||13th in Duel 1|
|28||13||Casey Mears||Germain Racing||14th in Duel 2|
|29||23||Alex Bowman||BK Racing||14th in Duel 1|
|30||99||*Carl Edwards*||Roush Fenway Racing||15th in Duel 2|
|31||55||Brian Vickers||Michael Waltrip Racing||15th in Duel 1|
|32||48||*Jimmie Johnson*||Hendrick Motorsports||16th in Duel 2|
|33||2||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||6th quick Sunday|
|34||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||Roush Fenway Racing||9th quick Sunday|
|35||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||12th quick Sunday|
|36||7||Michael Annett||Tommy Baldwin Racing||18th quick Sunday|
|37||18||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||4th Owner Points|
|38||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||11th Owner Points|
|39||36||Reed Sorenson||Tommy Baldwin Racing||35th Owner Points|
|40||51||Justin Allgaier||HScott Motorsports||30th Owner Points|
|41||30||Parker Kligerman||Swan Racing||33rd Owner Points|
|42||66||Michael Waltrip||Michael Waltrip Racing||24th Owner Points|
|43||34||*David Ragan*||Front Row Motorsports||29th Owner Points|
The five teams that did not qualify for the Daytona 500 were the No. 35 Ford team driven by Eric McClure of Front Row Motorsports, the No. 83 Toyota team driven by Ryan Truex for BK Racing, the No. 87 Toyota team driven by Joe Nemechek of Identity Ventures Racing, the 93 Toyota team driven by Morgan Shepherd in a car leased from BK Racing but not running under their name, and the No. 95 Ford team driven by Michael McDowell for Leavine Family Racing.
- Matt Kenseth Makes It Two in a Row by Winning at New Hampshire
- Denny Hamlin Claims Carnage Filled Sprint Unlimted Crown to Start the NASCAR Season
- Matt Kenseth Wins Pole for Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway
- Matt Kenseth Wins Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway
- Denny Hamlin Wins Ford EcoBoost 400, Jimmie Johnson Crowned Champion for Sixth Time
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