Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were victorious on Thursday, claiming wins in the two Budweiser Duel races at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and second-row starting spots for Sunday’s Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Harvick’s win in the first duel race was the driver’s second at Daytona, already, in the last week. He claimed the win in last Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited, a race for 2012 Sprint Cup Series pole sitters.
“We’re just having a good time,” Harvick said.
Trevor Bayne, after starting second, took the lead from Daytona 500 pole sitter Danica Patrick on lap one and remained up front until about the halfway point of the race when he was passed for the lead by Harvick.
Harvick ran up front the rest of the way, even through a cycle of green flag pit stops, to claim his first-career Budweiser Duel win.
Bayne, meanwhile, was caught up in a multi-car wreck in the final 10 laps of the 60-lap race. The incident, which seemed to start by the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin getting loose, also involved Hamlin and Carl Edwards.
“That was an unfortunate deal for our team,” Bayne said. “It’s unfortunate. We had a fast car all day long.”
Greg Biffle finished second in the first duel, with Juan Montoya coming in third, Jimmie Johnson fourth and Kurt Busch rounding out the top-five.
Michael Waltrip, originally scored 15th at the finish, looked to have the final transfer spot into the Daytona 500 based on the first duel finishing order, but Martin Truex Jr., who was originally scored sixth at the finish, was discovered to have the right-side window at of his car and was, as a result, sent to the back of the lead lap. That moved Waltrip up to 14th and Scott Speed to 15th, the final transfer spot.
The second duel race ran caution-free, despite a spin by Ryan Newman with 20 laps to go.
After starting on the second duel pole, Gordon dominated the second race, with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne running second behind him most of that time. But when the field cycled through green-flag pit stops with about 21 laps to go, Gordon was caught speeding on pit road and had to head down pit road to serve his penalty.
As a result, Kahne lost his drafting partner out front, and Busch was able to take advantage, moving into the lead. Busch remained up front the rest of the way, and in the closing laps, he was joined up front by his new Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth.
“It’s hard to pass the leader,” Busch said after the race. “Just stay out front when you get up front.”
Kahne recovered, though, and moved back into the second spot on the final lap to take runner-up honors. Other top finishers in the second duel included Austin Dillon in third, Clint Bowyer in fourth and Kenseth in fifth.
Dave Blaney took the final second duel transfer spot, leaving Josh Wise as the first driver out. Wise did get a spot in the Daytona 500, though, falling back on his Sunday qualifying speed.
With the running of the Budweiser Duel races, the complete field was finally set for the Daytona 500. Patrick and Gordon had already claimed front row starting spots with their qualifying laps last Sunday. After the duel races, Harvick and Busch took second-row starting spots, and Biffle and Kahne claimed third-row positions on Sunday’s starting grid.
Two drivers were left out of the Daytona 500 starting field following Thursday’s action — Brian Keselowski and Mike Bliss.
Television coverage for the Daytona 500 is scheduled for a noon ET start Sunday on FOX.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR