Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin each won their respective Budweiser Duel and Daytona race on Thursday night, setting them up for second-row starting positions on Sunday’s Daytona 500. Pole sitter Austin Dillon and outside pole sitter Martin Truex Jr. start on the front row.
“The race ended up unfolding great for us,” said Kenseth of his Duel No. 1 win. “We learned a lot in the race. I had the car in some positions that I wouldn't want to do again if I had to do it over. I was able to make some moves, get up to second behind (Dale Earnhardt) Junior there for a long time, ultimately take the lead. Jason (Radcliffe, crew chief) had a great call on a great pit stop. I was able to hold the lead. At the end, I saw Kevin (Harvick) making that move. You weren't going to be able to block it without wrecking. I just tried to get back to him and thankfully I had enough time to get that run to the finish line.”
Harvick’s second-place finish in Duel No. 1 was thrown out because his No. 4 Chevrolet SS failed post-race inspection (track bar infraction).
Hamlin was in the right place – the front – at the right time to miss “the big one” in the final turn of Duel No. 2. Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray got together in Turn 4 and proceeded to collect David Ragan, Michael Waltrip, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr.
“I think the biggest challenge we'll have for myself is keeping the reins back only for 400 miles, 450 miles. It's going to be a much longer race,” said Hamlin, who also won last weekend’s Sprint Unlimited. “Obviously, when you go out here and you perform the way we have over these last few races, it's hard not to just want to go out there, charge out there, show that you're still on top and still the best right on lap one. I think that will be my challenge within myself, is keeping the reins back and realizing how long this race is, trying to be as patient as I can.”
Kyle Busch suffered an ill-handling race car, relegating him to a 21st-place finish in Duel No. 1.
Kenseth will start third in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry on Sunday, next to Hamlin in the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota in fourth. Busch will start back in Row 19, in 37th place.
The Daytona 500 goes green on Sunday, February 23rd at 1 p.m. ET. Keep up with the action at joegibbsracing.com.
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