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Daytona 500 field set as Hendrick Motorsports teammates finish Duels inside top 12

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kasey Kahne recorded the fastest lap of the race as the second Budweiser Duel 150 wound down on Thursday, but the driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS didn’t have enough to capture his second career win in the qualifying event. Kahne finished second, ahead of teammate Jeff Gordon, who suffered late-race miscue on pit road and crossed the line 12th.

Gordon is the only Hendrick Motorsports driver who will maintain his starting spot for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (FOX, MRN 1 p.m. ET). He won the outside pole position during last Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying session and will remain on the front row because he finished the Duel intact. Kahne will start Sunday’s Daytona 500 in sixth, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will line up ninth and 19th, respectively. Johnson and Earnhardt finished inside the top nine in the first Duel on Thursday.

The second Duel ran relatively without incident, as Gordon opened the race from the pole position and won the lead by the second circuit. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS was followed by Kahne, who started third and successfully attempted a move on the bottom to win second by the third lap. 

Gordon toured Daytona International Speedway as fast as 197 mph and reported to crew chief Alan Gustafson that his temperatures appeared perfect. He led past the halfway point with Kahne right behind him, and the teams began to prepare for green-flag pit stops.

The Hendrick Motorsports teammates hit pit road with 21 laps left in the 150-mile event, taking right-side tires and fuel before returning to the track. Kahne left just ahead of Gordon, who soon was alerted he was clocked too fast on pit road. The miscue required Gordon to serve a pass-through penalty and put the driver of the No. 24 Chevy at the rear of the 22-car field.

Kahne continued his climb through the field, improving to fourth with 17 laps to go, as Gordon improved to 12th. When the checkered flag waved, Kahne took second, followed by Gordon in 12th.

 

Duel No. 1 recap:

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished inside the top nine of the first Budweiser Duel 150 to guarantee their starting spots in Sunday’s Daytona 500. The official grid for the Great American Race will be determined after the second Daytona qualifying race is completed this afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.

The high line was the best option for Cup competitors when the green flag dropped for Thursday’s first Budweiser Duel 150 qualifying race. Johnson lined up 11th and immediately tried to push forward, holding his ground as the field went three-wide within the first five laps. Earnhardt, who started from the back of the pack after an engine change on Wednesday, wasted little time driving his No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS through the field. Spotter TJ Majors encouraged that the “high line was the ticket,” and Earnhardt improved eight spots to 15th by Lap 15.

As the 60-lap event unfolded, the high line became a popular and crowded place so the drivers were forced to make up ground elsewhere. Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS began to develop a tight-handling condition around Lap 26 and Earnhardt echoed this comment prior to making his pit stop with 19 laps to go.

After green-flag pit stops, during which the Hendrick Motorsports teammates took right-side tires, fuel and adjustments, Johnson and Earnhardt returned to the 2.5-mile superspeedway. The swift two-tire stop propelled Johnson into fourth on Lap 42, and Earnhardt improved to 12th.

Earnhardt was running 10th when a multi-car incident unfolded right in front of him. He slipped right through the wrecking cars unscathed and held his position inside the top 10 with Johnson, who was still fourth at the time.

They decided to stay out during the ensuing caution period and lined up inside the top 10 for the final four-lap dash. Running fourth, Johnson decided to try drafting with then second-place Kevin Harvick. The pack tightened up as the laps ticked down, and the Hendrick Motorsports teammates held on to finish inside the top 10 and guarantee their spots in Sunday’s Daytona 500. Johnson took fourth, while Earnhardt finished ninth.

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