Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished 13th in the first Budweiser Duel qualifying race Thursday night at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
The Budweiser Duel consists of twin qualifying races that set the 43-car field for the season-opening Daytona 500, and Patrick earned the 27th starting position for Sunday’s race. However, because the GoDaddy team changed an engine earlier in the week, per NASCAR rules, Patrick will drop to the rear of the field before the green flag drops on the “Great American Race.”
Despite having to drop to the rear of the field, Patrick and the GoDaddy team escaped any significant damage in the Budweiser Duel, a concern for drivers and teams every year.
Patrick knows she will have to come from the rear of the field but is confident in her ability to do it.
“It could be challenging, but I think if you get a few people behind you, I think it will be fine,” Patrick said. “I know my GoDaddy pit crew is really good, so I know when it comes to pit stops, they’ll help get cars behind me. They are awesome. I know that (crew chief Tony) Gibson will try strategy to get me track position. With those two things, we’ll get in the thick of it. From there it will be a matter of using those things that I have learned over the last week and put them to good use.”
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, led the way for SHR by finishing third in the second Budweiser Duel race He will start eighth for the Daytona 500.
Patrick’s other SHR teammates – Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS and Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS – competed with her in the first Duel. Stewart finished 10th 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.” As a result, Harvick will start 38th in the Daytona 500 via a provisional.
Stewart earned the 21st starting spot for the Daytona 500, but like Patrick, he will drop to the rear of the field due to an engine change.
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 second 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 Shepherd, Eric McClure and Dave Blaney.
The Daytona 500 gets underway at 1 p.m. EST Sunday.