Kenseth, Hamlin Duel Winners
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on February 20, 2014 | 10:27 P.M. EST
Joe Gibbs Racing swept the Budweiser Duel at Daytona with Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin visiting Victory Lane, respectively, in the two races that set the lineup for the Daytona 500. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Joe Gibbs Racing’s domination continued Thursday night, sweeping both Budweiser Duel races at Daytona International Speedway.
Matt Kenseth held off a furious last-lap challenge for the lead to win the first Duel. Teammate Denny Hamlin, who captured last weekend’s Sprint Unlimited, won the second Duel. That race ended with a multi-car crash that featured Clint Bowyer going airborne after Jimmie Johnson ran out of fuel.
“That was one of the wildest flips I’ve ever had,’’ said Bowyer, who still made the Daytona 500.
Kevin Harvick finished second in the opening Duel but his car failed post-race inspection because his car exceeded the maximum split on the track bar. Harvick’s finish was disallowed but he’ll still make the Daytona 500. Harvick’s penalty allowed Brian Vickers to race his way into the Daytona 500.
Kenseth said that it hadn’t been enjoyable walking through the garage after the incident Saturday night.
“I was kind of embarrassed to walk in the garage,’’ he said. “I feel like (other drivers are) looking at you cross eyed when you're walking by.
“The last few days haven't felt great. I didn't feel like we had the speed. To get the car in the front today and keep it there, win that thing, certainly builds confidence in all of us, makes us feel like you can go out and get the job done if everybody does their jobs and we do everything right.’’
Hamlin continued his run. He won last year's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and is 2 for 2 during Speedweeks.
“Last year was so, so hard on us,’’ car owner Joe Gibbs said of Hamlin’s injury and struggles. “I got to tell you, Homestead was a huge deal for us. That was a big win. I think it gave everybody their confidence going into the off‑season. Denny has worked extremely hard. I think we were all hungry when the year started.’’
“Starving,’’ said Hamlin.
He showed it by leading the final 23 laps to beat Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch.
Why Kenseth and Hamlin Won: Kenseth had the preferred lane and drivers noticed where he was in holding on to win. Keep that in mind this weekend. Earlier in the day Earnhardt said he wanted to be leading in the final laps. Kenseth was in that position and held on to win. ... Hamlin won the second Duel just like the Shootout. He led and when others behind him got side-by-side, they slowed, allowing him to pull away.
What Else Happened: Earnhardt Jr. smoked his tires coming in for a pit stop and with team not changing any tires, he had to run on those the entire race. He finished fifth. ... Pole-sitter Austin Dillon fell back and finished 19th. It doesn’t matter. He protected his car and will start the Daytona 500 from the pole. ... In the second Duel, Jimmie Johnson ran out of fuel, triggering the multi-car crash on the last lap.
Who Else had a Good Night: Josh Wise, driving for the underfunded Phil Parsons team finished sixth. Wise needed to race his way to make the Daytona 500 and will have a good starting spot. ... Tony Stewart also had a good night. Although he finished 11th it was good enough to earn a spot, meaning teammate Kurt Busch, running in the second Duel, was assured a starting spot in the Daytona 500 with the champion’s provisional at the least. Stewart’s teammate, Danica Patrick also raced her way into the field, meaning all four Stewart-Haas Racing cars made the field.
Who had a Bad Night: Martin Truex Jr. was collected in the last-lap crash in the second Duel and saw his outside pole car damaged enough that he’ll have to go to a backup car. That means that he’ll have to start at the rear of the field (along with several others). Adding to Truex’s pain is how he was trying to help his brother Ryan make the race but Ryan was among the five who did not.
Quote of the Day: “Still undefeated,’’ Denny Hamlin said on his radio after winning.
Other Notables: Parker Kligerman survived the anxiety of watching the second Duel and not knowing if he’d made the race until after the last-lap crash. Kligerman tweeted “This is POSTIVELY the most nerve-wracking thing of my entire life. I’m ready for fatherhood after this.’’ ... Cole Whitt, driving a repaired car after he ran over debris and hit the wall Wednesday in practice, finished 12th to race his way into the Daytona 500. ... Jimmie Johnson will start 33rd after running out of fuel on the final lap. It is his worst starting spot ever at Daytona. ... Kevin Harvick would have started fifth but falls to 38th because his car failed post-race inspection.