DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — For at least one day — or perhaps just a few minutes — Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch found themselves on the same stage.
Over the years, the two Sprint Cup Series drivers have butted heads on more than one occasion. On Thursday, each took a turn in Victory Lane after winning their respective Gatorade Duel qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway.
Pole-winner Danica Patrick and Jeff Gordon are locked into the front row for Sunday’s Daytona 500. As the winners of the qualifying races, Harvick and Busch will start alongside each other on Row No. 2.
The win is Harvick’s second of Speedweeks after he won the Sprint Unlimited non-points event last Saturday night. If he wasn’t one of the favorites to win the 500, he certainly cemented that position on Thursday.
“You have to be precise with this car. Obviously, at the beginning of the race, (we) got ourselves stuck in the middle trying to make something happen. I hadn’t been in that particular position before to see what was going to happen,” Harvick said.
Precision also required patience on Harvick’s part.
“I thought we needed to at least try to make something happen. We were able to side draft and break them up one or two at a time,” he said. “I think that’s only going to get better as you get all the cars in the pack.”
Harvick continues to impress despite entering the season knowing he will not return to his No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team next season.
“All these guys care about is winning,” Harvick said.
Greg Biffle finished second in the first Duel.
Busch’s victory came in part because of a penalty to Jeff Gordon, who dominated the second Duel until he made his green-flag pit stop on Lap 40 of 60.
Gordon was penalized by NASCAR for exceeding the speed limit while entering pit road and was forced to come back down pit road and serve a drive-thru penalty. He finished 12th.
Busch inherited the lead after Gordon’s miscue and was seriously challenged once when Clint Bowyer grabbed the lead on Lap 52 but Busch quickly retook it.
Austin Dillon finished third in the second Duel and will make his first career start in the 500.
There was one caution between both races and that came on Lap 53 of the first Duel.
Denny Hamlin got loose and ignited a four-car wreck that collected Carl Edwards, Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne.
Bayne and Edwards will have to use backup cars in Sunday’s 500 and start the race from the rear of the field.
Budweiser Duel 1
|3||7||Juan Pablo Montoya||Chevy||60|
|9||6||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevy||60|
|19||10||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||60|
*Reason out: 1-accident.
Avg. Speed of Winner: 177.282 mph. Time: 50 minutes, 46 seconds. Margin of Victory: 0.165 seconds. Caution Flags: 1 for 3 laps. Lead Changes: 4 among 2 drivers. Lap Leaders: T.Bayne 1-36; K.Harvick 37-40; T.Bayne 41; K.Harvick 42-60.
Budweiser Duel 2
|14||6||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||59|
Avg. Speed of Winner: 193.966 mph. Time: 46 minutes, 24 seconds. Margin of Victory: 0.093 seconds. Caution Flags: 0 for 0 laps. Lead Changes: 6 among 5 drivers. Lap Leaders: R.Newman 1; J.Gordon 2-39; M.Ambrose 40; K.Busch 41-51; C.Bowyer 52; K.Busch 53-60.
DAYTONA 500 Lineup
At Daytona International Speedway
Lap length: 2.5 miles
|7.||42||J. Pablo Montoya||Chevy||195.508|
|19.||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevy||195.584|
|28.||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||195.537|
|37.||56||Martin Truex, Jr..||Toyota||195.207|