Matt Kenseth triumphed in the opening Daytona 500 Duel qualifying race, coming out on top in a three-wide finish.
Joe Gibbs Toyota driver Kenseth held command right through the second half of the race, the first of two that will set the field for Sunday’s main event.
The only real threat to his lead came in the final charge to the line when Kevin Harvick attempted to slingshot through the inside. He fractionally mistimed his run and fell just 0.2 second short, with Kasey Kahne a mere 0.4sec further back in third place.
“I knew I had to go when I had the momentum,” Harvick said. “I pulled out and thought I’d got in there soon enough, but the timing of the side-draft was off just a little bit.”
Early leader Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s hopes were dealt a blow when he overcooked his entry to the pits and flat-spotted his front-left tire. Despite the mishap, he only stopped for fuel, and the tire held together sufficiently well for him to cross the line in fifth behind Marcos Ambrose.
All 60 laps passed without incident; a factor that conspired against the handful of cars that gambled on stopping for tires as well as fuel. The consequent time loss left the group, led by Tony Stewart, trailing the rest of the pack by around eight seconds after the stops, and although they eventually managed to catch the leaders, they were unable to contend for the win.
BK Racing rookie Alex Bowman secured his place in the 500 by rounding out the top 15 places that are granted an automatic entry.
“When I crossed the line, I wasn’t sure where we’d ended up,” said the 20-year-old. “It’s a huge sigh of relief.”
Finishing order after 60 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car 1. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota 2. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 3. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford 4. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet 5. Josh Wise Parsons Ford 6. Aric Almirola Petty Ford 7. AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Chevrolet 8. David Gilliland Front Row Ford 9. Ryan Newman Childress Chevrolet 10. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 11. Cole Whitt Swan Toyota 12. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford 13. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 14. Alex Bowman BK Toyota 15. Brian Vickers Waltrip Toyota 16. Joey Logano Penske Ford 17. Parker Kligerman Swan Toyota 18. Austin Dillon Childress Chevrolet 19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford 20. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota 21. Michael McDowell Leavine Ford 22. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 23. Reed Sorenson Baldwin Chevrolet Retired lap 20 24. Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet Post-race penalty
Originally on Autosport.com