Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch won their respective Budweiser Duels Thursday afternoon, Feb. 21, at Daytona International Speedway and will roll off the starting grid from the second row for Sunday’s 55th annual Daytona 500.
Finding himself in a similar situation as in The Sprint Unlimited last Saturday, Harvick once again showed his superior blocking skills by holding off two lanes of cars to secure the win over Greg Biffle by 0.165 seconds. It is the second time in a week that Harvick and Biffle have finished 1-2; Harvick took The Sprint Unlimited over Biffle by 0.149 seconds.
“We’ve been fortunate to win the first two races of Speedweeks,” said Harvick, who now has six career wins at the ‘World Center of Racing.’ “We just have to keep a level head on our shoulders, not get too high over what we’ve done, and just do the same things that we’ve done. If (winning the Daytona 500 is) meant to be, it’s meant to be. I think we definitely have the car and team to be in contention to do that.
“To get our first win with Budweiser onboard for the first time in the Duels is really cool,” added Harvick.
“You have to be in the right place at the right time,” said Biffle. “You have to get a run and have some cars with you. A bunch of people wanted to know why I didn’t turn him. It doesn’t take any talent to wreck somebody for the win and wreck 20 cars behind you. You have to run as hard as you can and trade a little paint, but at the same time, we all have to finish.”
Busch’s win over Kasey Kahne and Austin Dillon in the second Budweiser Duel marks his second victory in the 150-mile races. Unlike Harvick, who laid back for the first half of his race, Busch kept his No. 18 Toyota near the front of the field and led two different times for a total of 19 laps.
“This is certainly a huge confidence boost for our team, being able to set the momentum in the right direction at the start of the season,” said Busch.
Dillon, who will start eighth in his first “Great American Race” on Sunday, was thankful for such a good run behind the wheel of the No. 33 Chevrolet.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Dillon. “I’m glad my grandfather (team owner Richard Childress) can sleep now. He was wearing me out before the race, especially when those three cars (qualified in the first Duel). It was a blast out there.”
With no cautions in the second Duel to slow the pack, the 22 drivers posted the second-highest speed in the history of the Duels with a pace of 193.966 mph – just 0.209 mph slower than the record set by Matt Kenseth in last year’s second Budweiser Duel.
Danica Patrick, who has secured the pole for Sunday’s Daytona 500, will become the first woman to lead the field to the green flag in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
“I think what I really need to do is go down to Harvick’s bus tonight and figure out what he’s got going on,” said Patrick when asked what she learned today. “He’s got it figured out here this year, so, good job to him.”
Of the 45 drivers participating in the Duels, only 12 were guaranteed a spot in NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious race. Brian Keselowski – brother of defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad – and Mike Bliss were the two cars who did not make the 43-car field.
Even more changes are in store for the event in 2014. According to Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III, the Budweiser Duel, the 150-mile qualifying races that determine the starting lineup for the Daytona 500, will move under the lights next season.
“To earn a coveted starting spot in the Daytona 500, the stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will have to perform under the lights and in front of a primetime audience in the Budweiser Duel,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said. “Moving the Budweiser Duel under the lights will add another dimension to Budweiser Speedweeks.”
The Budweiser Duel joins The Sprint Unlimited and the NextEra Energy Resources 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race as the three nighttime races held during Budweiser Speedweeks.
This year’s 55th annual Daytona 500 is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 24 on MRN Radio and FOX.
Tickets for all remaining Budweiser Speedweeks events are available online or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
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