The field has now been set for the 58th running of the Great American Race, the Daytona 500. Four drivers failed to make the field after the two 150 mile races that finalized the starting line up for Sunday’s race and two drivers celebrated in Victory lane Thursday night. Here’s how both the race went down.
Rookie Chase Elliott led the first lap of the first Duel. Elliott blocked Dale Earnhardt on lap two and the two fought for the top spot until lap two when Earnhardt grabbed the lead entering turn 1. Denny Hamlin and Elliott were side by side for second behind.
There was a three wide battle for second by lap 4 with Brad Keselowski in the mix with Hamlin and Elliott. The lead group behind Earnhardt and second place Hamlin were two by two by lap 6.
Keselowski took second on lap 7; Joey Logano was behind Hamlin in fourth. Logano had third by lap 8. Paul Menard had moved to fourth; Hamlin had dropped back to eighth.
By lap 10 the top 13 were single file. On lap 12, Kevin Harvick moved to the bottom trying to look for spots. The move failed and he began dropped back. Up front Earnhardt was blocking Keselowski. By lap 16 the entire field was single file.
On lap 21, Hamlin dropped out of line and tried to move forward, he failed and got back in line. Ryan Blaney dropped below Austin Dillon who was trialing a piece of debris. Soon Blaney was falling back.
Hamlin dropped out of line on lap 26 and this time three others followed him. Soon the inside line was slowly moving forward. Blaney was the first to pit coming in on lap 28. Keselowski dropped to the bottom in front of Hamlin on lap 29. Logano moved up and down both lanes, but by lap 32 Logano was again behind Earnhardt as the inside line faded a bit. The inside line caught up by lap 34 and Logano dropped in front of Keselowski and the two had second and third. Keselowski didn’t stay there long and dropped back to the bottom on the inside of Menard. Earnhardt and Logano were one and to front.
By lap 36, Logano and Keselowski were side by side for second. Two laps later Logano was second, Menard was third and Keselowski on the inside were again dropping and for good reason; Logano, Keselowski, Harvick and others behind pitted. The rest of the field led by Earnhardt pitted a lap later.
When stops sorted out, Hamlin led, Earnhardt was second, Harvick was third, Menard fourth and Elliott fifth.
Cole Whitt spun on lap 42 and the first caution of the night flew. It appeared that Whitt made contact with Regan Smith entering turn 1. Whitt didn’t hit anything and everyone continued. Having just pitted, the leaders all stayed out. Whitt was one of the drivers needing to race his way into the Daytona 500.
Green came out on lap 47. Hamlin was able to jump to the lead, Harvick slid into second, Elliott went to third, Austin Dillon fourth and Earnhardt fifth. Earnhardt went to fourth on lap 49; he was third a lap later. Whitt was forced to take his car to the garage. The field was again single file by lap 51; Earnhardt moved to second at the start of lap 52. Earnhardt was moving up and down trying to grab the lead. A four car line gathered up behind on the inside and began to creep forward. Earnhardt grabbed the lead as the start of lap 55. Hamlin was close behind, Dillon was third. With four laps to go the top three were in line as the field was two by two behind. With three to go, Harvick had moved up and was challenging Hamlin for second. Earnhardt had sole possession of the lead Hamlin and Harvick side by side behind. Logano pushed Harvick and took over second; Blaney fell in to third.
On the final lap, Earnhardt led, Logano was second Blaney and Harvick side by side. As the field exited turn four, Brian Scott spun and down into the inside wall. Earnhardt was able to hold on for the win, Logano was second, Blaney came from a lap down for third, Harvick was fourth, Hamlin fifth.
Michael McDowell was the driver to transfer, Josh Wise and Cole Whitt were out. The Duel win was Earnhardt’s 17 Daytona race win and his fifth Duel win. Brian Scott will race on Sunday but will be forced to go to a backup car.
Matt Kenseth led the field to the green for the second Duel. By the end of the first lap Kenseth had a clear led, Kyle Busch was second, Jimmie Johnson was on the inside of Busch. By the end of the second lap, Kenseth was first, Kyle Busch was second, Carl Edwards was third. Johnson was in fourth on the outside but by the end of lap 3 the top 11 were single file. A second pack of the rest of the field was behind. Edwards was third, Casey Mears was fourth, Ty Dillon was fifth. By lap 10 the two packs were separated by nearly two seconds and single file.
The second pack, led by Ryan Newman had caught the lead group by lap 14. The second group tried to go low and start an inside line, Martin Truex Jr. who was at the back of the lead group dropped down but the line stalled and soon the lead pack was single file again. The lead group was soon 18 cars.
On lap 23, Kenseth was reporting debris on his grill and began losing water. His teammate Kyle Busch was able to drop down and get in front of Kenseth and the debris was soon gone. Busch remained in the lead. By lap 26 the front group was 16 cars, the rest of the field, 6 cars, was over 8 seconds behind.
Ryan Newman reported engine trouble on lap 28 and began dropping back. He pitted on lap 32. The crew was soon pushing the car back to the garage.
The leaders save for Aric Almirola pitted on lap 37. Kyle Busch was out first, Kenseth was second, Johnson third, Edwards fourth and Kurt Busch fifth. By lap 40, Mears was up to fourth, Jamie McMurray was fifth. The lead group consisted of 9 cars all in a single line.
The second pack which had been as much as 9 seconds back, began to move up to the lead group by lap 50, ten laps to go. With six laps to go, Johnson began peeking on the inside, and tried to take second. The move failed and soon he and Kenseth were falling back. Mears took over second as both packs were together with 4 laps to go. McMurray was third, Edwards was fourth, Kurt Busch fifth.
On lap 57, three to go, Kenseth began to move up through the field just as Mears ran out of gas and began to slow. McMurray and Johnson were suddenly catching the leader but on lap 59 as the field entered turn 1, McMurray tagged Johnson turning him into the outside wall sitting off a multi-car crash. The results left Johnson, Kenseth, Truex, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch with damaged cars.
NASCAR had already thrown the white flag and since Busch had passed the overtime line declared the race complete and Kyle Busch the winner. McMurray was second, Kurt Busch salvaged a third place, Edwards was fourth, Ty Dillon was fifth.
Matt Dibenedetto was able to race his way into the field with a ninth place finish. Robert Richardson will also start the Daytona 500. David Gilliland and Reed Sorenson failed to make the field.
The 58th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway will get the green flag Sunday just after 1:00 p.m.. Live coverage will be on Fox starting at noon. The results for the first Duel can be found here, the results for the second here. The full starting lineup for Sunday can be found here.