No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet will start 8th in Daytona 500
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, led the way for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) Thursday night at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway by finishing third in the second Budweiser Duel race. The Budweiser Duel consists of twin qualifying races that set the 43-car field for the season-opening Daytona 500. Busch’s third-place finish in the second Duel allows him to start eighth for the 56th Daytona 500 Sunday.
The No. 41 Haas Automation team Busch drives for is brand new, with no owner points from the previous season. However, as the 2004 Sprint Cup Series champion, Busch was eligible for the champion’s provisional, provided SHR teammate and co-owner Tony Stewart, a three-time Sprint Cup champion whose most recent title came in 2011, didn’t use the champion’s provisional.
Busch started the second Duel in 14th position after he qualified 28th in single-car qualifying runs Sunday. The Haas Automation Chevy didn’t stay in 14th long, racing up to fifth within eight laps and remaining in fifth until the only pit stop of the race on lap 36. Busch came in for fuel and minor adjustments and gained three positions on pit road, rejoining the race in second trailing only race leader Denny Hamlin. The No. 41 ran second until the final lap, when Jeff Gordon, running in third, passed Busch for second just before the start-finish line.
“Denny Hamlin was strong. He won the race off pit road. Who would have known that would have been where the difference maker was,” Busch said. “With all four of our Chevys lined up I thought we could get a run on them. The problem is when you are running there second place, third place, the fifth- and sixth-place guys are developing their plan. I blocked Jeff Gordon once coming off turn four. I couldn’t block him twice otherwise I would have been in the wreck. So I have to thank everybody that is involved with this Haas Automation team Chevrolet, Monster Energy, it is going good.”
Busch and the Haas Automation team start eighth for the 56th running of the Great American Race.
Busch’s SHR teammates – Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS and Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS – all competed in the first Duel. Stewart finished 10th, Patrick finished 13th and Harvick was credited with a 24th-place finish.
Harvick actually finished second in his Duel but was dropped to last place after his car failed post-race inspection. NASCAR officials determined his car “exceeded the maximum split on the track bar.”
Typically, the finishes Stewart and Patrick earned in the Duel would slot them 21st and 27th, respectively, in the Daytona 500. However, both drivers were forced to change engines Saturday prior to qualifying, and per the NASCAR rule book, the unapproved engine changes mean both drivers will have to start at the back of the Daytona 500.
Harvick will start 38th in the Daytona 500. He was able to keep his qualifying time from Sunday’s time trials, and that’s what earned him the 38th starting spot.
Matt Kenseth won the first Budweiser Duel by .022 of a second over Harvick. With Harvick’s second-place run being stricken from the record, everyone behind Harvick moved up a position. Kasey Kahne finished second, while Marcos Ambrose, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Josh Wise took spots three through five. The rest of the top-10 consisted of Aric Almirola, A.J. Allmendinger, David Gilliland, Ryan Newman and Stewart.
Denny Hamlin won the first Budweiser Duel, which ended under caution due to a multicar accident on the last lap just before the checkered flag. Jeff Gordon finished second, while Busch, Paul Menard and Brian Scott comprised the remainder of the top-five. Rounding out the top-10 were Trevor Bayne, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Landon Cassill and Clint Bowyer.
With the Budweiser Duel now complete, the field for the Daytona 500 is set. On the pole is Austin Dillon, and alongside him is Truex. By notching the two quickest times during Sunday’s time trials, both drivers were able to lock themselves into the front row for the Daytona 500. Truex, however, will have to move to the back of the Daytona 500, for he was involved in the last-lap wreck in the second Duel which forced him to a backup racecar.
Failing to qualify for the Daytona 500 were Ryan Truex, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Morgan Sheperd, Eric McClure and Dave Blaney.
The Daytona 500 gets underway at 1 p.m. EST Sunday, Feb. 23.