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Daytona Duels: Kenseth and Hamlin lead Toyota sweep

by Pete McCole
Friday, February 21, 2014

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Matt Kenseth
Getty Images for NASCAR

Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin led a Joe Gibb Racing sweep of Thursday’s night’s twin Budweiser Duel qualifying races at Daytona International Speedway to set the 43-car field for the Sunday’s 56th-running of the Daytona 500.

Kenseth bested Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne in a thrilling three-wide shootout to win the opening race, while Hamlin topped the second race over Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch in a wild finish that saw a nine-car pileup coming out of the final turn that will send several of the frontrunners to backup cars for the Daytona 500.

With a spot in the field for NASCAR’s biggest race on the line, 48 drivers battled for one of the 43 coveted spots in the Daytona 500 lineup, with the finishing order of Thursday’s night’s races setting the grid for Sunday’s Sprint Cup season opener.

Kenseth led the final 24 laps of the first 60-lap race, taking the lead following a round of pit stops on lap 36.

After pitting for fuel only, Kenseth beat Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne off pit road and rejoined the field as the leader as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. surrendered the top spot to pit for fuel.

The top five ran nose to tail for almost all of the remaining laps until the final lap, when Harvick made his move coming out of turn four, diving to the inside of Kenseth to try for the lead.

Harvick managed to nose ahead for just a moment as Kenseth side-drafted to pull back even about 100 yards from the finish just as Kahne dropped to the inside of Harvick to make it three wide, but Kenseth was able to inch just ahead of Harvick as they came to the stripe, taking the win by less than three feet over Harvick with Kahne just a car-length behind Harvick to finish third. Marcos Ambrose and Earnhardt, Jr. rounded out the top five.

Following the race, Harvick’s car failed inspection and his finish in the opening race was thrown out, forcing Harvick to use a provisional starting spot for the 500. 

With his win in the Budweiser Duel, Kenseth will start third in the Daytona 500 behind pole sitter Austin Dillon, who finished 19th in the Duel.

“I saw (Harvick) laying back getting a run and he made the perfect move,” said Kenseth of the final lap. “I saw it coming and I couldn’t block it.  It was too fast and fortunately I was able to get down to his right rear and get a little air back off of him and get a run to the finish line.  It was exciting.”

Josh Wise came home sixth as the highest finisher among those who had to race their way into Sunday’s field, putting him 11th on the grid for the Daytona 500. Rookies Cole Whitt and Alex Bowman also raced their way in, while Michael McDowell’s 22nd-place finish wasn’t enough to make the race.

“We’re in the Daytona 500, the biggest race of the year and it’s pretty cool to say it,” said Whitt, who rallied back from hitting the wall in practice on Wednesday. “To be in the Daytona 500 is something I've dreamed of my whole life. I can’t believe it -- it's like a win for us.”

Denny Hamlin
Getty Images for NASCAR
In the second race, Brad Keselowski looked to have the car to beat, leading 34 of the first 35 laps before being nabbed for a speeding penalty during his pit stop with 25 laps to go. Hamlin – who had been running near the back of the pack all night - pitted one lap later and found himself out front when the field cycled around and led the next 23 laps as once again the top five ran nose to tail.

And then once again, they saved all the drama for the final lap.

Coming out of turn four, Johnson’s no. 48 Chevrolet ran out of fuel right in front of the field, collecting Jaime McMurray, outside polesitter Martin Truex, Jr., two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip and Clint Bowyer, who did a 360-degree barrel-roll in mid-air before coming down on all four wheels and driving away.

Clint Bowyer goes airborne
Getty Images for NASCAR
Out in front, Hamlin managed to stay out front as Gordon ducked to the inside coming into the tri-oval to take second away from Kurt Busch, with Hamlin beating Gordon to the line by a car length for the win.

Busch held on for third, followed by Paul Menard and Brian Scott. 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne was sixth – the best of “Go or Go Home” drivers – and made the field for the 500, along with Landon Cassill, Terry Labonte and Bobby Labonte who all raced their way in.

Hamlin’s victory in the second Duel was his second win of Speedweeks after winning the Sprint Unlimited race last Saturday night and his third straight victory after winning the 2013 season finale at Homestead.

“For us the win tonight keeps our roll going from this week,” said Hamlin, who will line up fourth for the Daytona 500. “Obviously the start of Speedweeks with the Unlimited win was special because I started off 2014 the way we ended '13. You get rejuvenated, get excited about a clean slate that you have for ourselves this year.

“Right now it's a huge snowball, it's really like an avalanche, and it's just not stopping.”

Among the drivers to race their way into the show was Parker Kligerman, who will start 41st in a back-up car after crashing during practice on Wednesday and sliding down the racetrack on his roof.

“We were constantly doing the math, screaming and yelling and looking around,” said Kligerman. “It's an honor to be part of it for the first time, it's an honor to have a chance at it. I'm grateful and astonished to be here and ready to get the job done.”

Five drivers failed to make the field for the 500 including McDowell, Eric McClure, Ryan Truex, Joe Nemechek and Morgan Shepherd.

Results Race 1

Pos Car # Driver Make Start Pos. Laps Laps Led Status
1 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota 9 60 31 Running
2 4 Kevin Harvick (Disqualified) Chevrolet 12 60 0 Running
3 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet 10 60 1 Running
4 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford 6 60 0 Running
5 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 4 60 14 Running
6 98 Josh Wise Ford 22 60 0 Running
7 43 Aric Almirola Ford 7 60 0 Running
8 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevrolet 14 60 0 Running
9 38 David Gilliland Ford 16 60 0 Running
10 31 Ryan Newman Chevrolet 3 60 0 Running
11 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet 18 60 0 Running
12 26 Cole Whitt Toyota 20 60 0 Running
13 16 Greg Biffle Ford 2 60 0 Running
14 10 Danica Patrick Chevrolet 13 60 0 Running
15 23 Alex Bowman Toyota 24 60 0 Running
16 55 Brian Vickers Toyota 19 60 0 Running
17 22 Joey Logano Ford 8 60 0 Running
18 30 Parker Kligerman Toyota 17 60 0 Running
19 3 Austin Dillon Chevrolet 1 60 14 Running
20 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford 5 60 0 Running
21 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 11 60 0 Running
22 95 Michael McDowell Ford 21 59 0 Running
23 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota 23 59 0 Running
24 36 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet 15 20 0 Wheel Bearing

Results Race 2

Pos Car # Driver Make Start  Laps Led Status
1 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 11 60 23 Running
2 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 4 60 0 Running
3 41 Kurt Busch Chevrolet 14 60 0 Running
4 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet 5 60 0 Running
5 33 Brian Scott Chevrolet 6 60 0 Running
6 21 Trevor Bayne Ford 13 60 0 Running
7 42 Kyle Larson Chevrolet 12 60 0 Running
8 78 Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 1 60 1 Running
9 40 Landon Cassill Chevrolet 16 60 0 Running
10 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 10 60 0 Running
11 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 19 60 0 Running
12 32 Terry Labonte Ford 21 60 0 Running
13 52 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 22 60 0 Running
14 13 Casey Mears Chevrolet 8 60 2 Running
15 99 Carl Edwards Ford 2 60 0 Running
16 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 7 59 0 Accident
17 34 David Ragan Ford 20 59 0 Accident
18 66 Michael Waltrip Toyota 17 59 0 Accident
19 83 Ryan Truex Toyota 23 59 0 Running
20 51 Justin Allgaier Chevrolet 15 59 0 Running
21 7 Michael Annett Chevrolet 9 59 0 Running
22 93 Morgan Shepherd Toyota 24 59 0 Running
23 35 Eric McClure Ford 18 57 0 Running
24 2 Brad Keselowski Ford 3 57 34 Running

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