Daytona Beach, Fla. – Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were the winners of the Budweiser Duel races on Thursday afternoon at the Daytona International Speedway. Harvick scored in the first 150-mile race and Busch did so in the second round.
Prior to the start, officials announced that the 2014 edition of the Budweiser Duel will be run under the lights for the first-time ever.
The winner led 23 laps today.
“It has been a great start to Speedweeks and to get the first win for our Budweiser Chevrolet in a Budweiser Duel is really cool,” he said. “Yesterday, we felt really good about our car, but we learned you have to be really precise with your car. At the beginning, I tried to make something happen but didn’t have a lot of help, dropping back to 12th or 13th. Once we were able to get to side-drafting, we were able to pass one or two at a time and worked our way to the front. Running the inside line is only to get better once the packs become larger.”
He indicated his car’s handling made the difference in gaining track position and going for the win.
... once we got out front, Kevin did what he does best.
Added crew chief Gil Martin, “We haven’t made any car changes since the Sprint Unlimited on Saturday night. Basically, we didn’t have quite as much tape on the grill. As far as anything else being changed, we didn’t do it. Our pit stops worked well and once we got out front, Kevin did what he does best.”
Finishing second in the first round was Greg Biffle and Juan Pablo Montoya zipped from 11th to third in the final laps.
Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Casey Mears, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano rounded out the top-10 finishers.
The majority of the laps in the first Duel were uneventful but a four-car wreck on the 54th lap altered the scene and set up an eventful finish. The backstretch joust sidelined front-runners Denny Hamlin, early leader Trevor Bayne, Carl Edwards and Regan Smith. It seemed to have started when Hamlin hooked another car, catching the others in the ensuing melee.
For Edwards, it marked his fourth accident since the January tests. “It looked like Denny got sideways and wrecked us,” he said. “We have the black flag after our four wrecks, and the race hasn’t even started. We are getting it out of our systems. Fortunately, we have a good back-up car, which is our Unlimited car. We will just go get’em in the 500.”
Daytona 500 pole winner Danica Patrick trudged to a 17th place finish. She blamed her performance on a bad start and running too long on the inside lane.
The top-15 finishers in each Duel advanced to the starting field for the Daytona 500. Finishing 14th and 15th, Michael Waltrip and Scott Speed made it from the first Duel and Dave Blaney and Josh Wise graduated through the second Duel.
Failing to make the starting field were Brad Keselowski and Mike Bliss.
“I knew I needed to survive and didn’t want to wreck,” Waltrip said. “At the end, I thought I was in a position to win but it didn’t pan out.”
In the caution-free race, Busch averaged 193.966 miles per hour to record the second fastest speed in Duel history.
“I tried some moves early in the race, but they didn’t work,” the victor said. “After trying it, I just stayed on the bottom and tried to go forward as much as I could. Without help, it was difficult, and it is a product of what we have to learn with this car and what it is going to do.
“My guys did a great job with the pit stop and the call for no tires – fuel only – to get out front and let track position take care of me. Our original plan was for two tires but Dave Rogers called it but he kept harping on me not to slide my tires as I came to pits. I slowed down nice and smooth and had a good pit-road entry. My guys filled the tank in about five seconds, and we got it out front. Also, I got a good push from (new) teammate Matt Kenseth, and I wish we could have come home 1-2-3 for the coach (team owner Joe Gibbs).”
Stated crew chief Dave Rogers, “The guys in the shop did a great job. The car has been really fast since we unloaded it, and we really didn’t really have to work on it.”
As expected, Gibbs was thrilled with the outcome. “Dave (Rogers) had a great game plan today, and Kyle did a great job,” he said. “Matt (Kenseth) tried to help but got caught up with a few things. This is our first time that all three cars have qualified in the top-10, which is a great job for us.”
Said the driver, “I thought we had a great run today and was able to keep up with Jeff (Gordon), but we got behind on the pit stop. At that point, there were only six or seven cars in line and it was tough to make a move. But at the end, we got by a couple of cars and finished second.”
Rookie Austin Dillon raced with the leaders throughout and claimed third place at the finish. He drove the Honey Nut Cheerios Chevrolet, one of four Richard Childress Racing cars in the field.
Said the youthful driver, who qualified for his first Daytona 500, “I am pretty excited and am glad my grandfather (Richard Childress) can sleep now. He was wearing me out during the first race when those three cars got in. It was fun, and we kept it out front. It was a blast out, but it was tough to pass, so you had to be patient.”
Clint Bowyer’s team elected not to change tires on his pit stop, but it worked against him at the end, as he dropped to fourth at the end.
Kenseth took fifth place.
Mark Martin, Paul Menard, Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray and David Ragan rounded out the top-10.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also had a pit-road speeding penalty, dropping him back in the field.
The trio ended up 12th, 21st and 14th in the final tally.
On Friday, the Sprint Cup Series has two one-hour practice sessions, the Nationwide Series will qualify and the Camping World Truck Series will race in the evening.