Kenseth, Hamlin victorious in Duels, field jumbled by carnage

For the first time under the lights, the Budweiser Duel has determined the starting order for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ main event, Sunday’s Daytona 500. Two races help determine how the drivers will line up, and they are full of surprises and thrills. Also, under the newest format, some notables were at risk for missing the big show.

Let’s see how the field shook out:

Budweiser Duel No. 1

The theme of the night turned out to be a pack-like start, yet the cars strung out by lap ten. Austin Dillon led a majority of the opening laps, only to be passed by the charging inside line, which was led by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth. As it went on, Kenseth became more aggressive, blocking as much as he could. There was a lot of close action, yet no wrecks or caution flags showed up. The last lap proved to be the highlight; Kevin Harvick went for the pass on Kenseth, and Kasey Kahne followed suit, making it a three-wide finish for the win.

The No. 20 was crowned the winner, and it became apparent what the big story was: Josh Wise, Alex Bowman, and Cole Whitt all finished high enough to lock themselves into the 500. Two notables missing? Parker Kligerman, rookie and teammate to Whitt, and Brian Vickers; Kligerman’s battery quit on the final lap, and Vickers was shuffled out at the wrong time.

However, before the second duel began, it was announced that Harvick’s No. 4 machine failed post-race inspection. The team “exceeded the maximum split on the track bar,” which resulted in his finish being thrown out. The mistake caused him to fall back on owner’s points, and that opened up a slot for Vickers. Miracles do happen.

Budweiser Duel No. 2

Brad Keselowski became synonymous with ‘dominance’ in the beginning shades of the second race. For the most part, everyone was strung out, and not much excitement happened until pit stops with 25 to go. Keselowski sped and was blackflagged to serve his pass-through penalty. Denny Hamlin took the lead, and things got worse for the 2012 champions when he blew a tire.

The ending because the big story. On the final lap, reigning champion Jimmie Johnson ran out of gas while racing in the top line. As he tried to get out of the way, Jamie McMurray hit his bumper and triggered a large crash, sending Clint Bowyer through the air at one point. It was a fiery end to a somewhat mundane race.

Hamlin took home the checkered, winning for the second time this Speedweeks. Interesting things took place before the turmoil: Casey Mears ran out of fuel with two laps to go and came down pit road. By doing so, he missed the wreck and earn himself a spot in The Great American Race.

The drivers who failed to qualify for the race are: Eric McClure, Ryan Truex, Joe Nemechek, Morgan Shepherd, and Michael McDowell.

Here’s the starting order for the Daytona 500 on Sunday (those marked with an asterisk will go to the rear for the start of the race):

1. Austin Dillon, No. 3, Richard Childress Racing
2. Martin Truex Jr., No. 78, Furniture Row Racing*
3. Matt Kenseth, No. 20, Joe Gibbs Racing
4. Denny Hamlin, No. 11, Joe Gibbs Racing
5. Kasey Kahne, No. 5, Hendrick Motorsports
6. Jeff Gordon, No. 24, Hendrick Motorsports
7. Marcos Ambrose, No. 9, Richard Petty Motorsports
8. Kurt Busch, No. 41, Stewart-Haas Racing
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88, Hendrick Motorsports
10. Paul Menard, No. 27, Richard Childress Racing
11. Josh Wise, No. 98, Phil Parsons Racing
12. Brian Scott, No. 33, Richard Childress Racing
13. Aric Almirola, No. 43, Richard Petty Racing
14. Trevor Bayne, No. 21, Wood Brothers Racing
15. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47, JTG Daugherty Racing
16. Kyle Larson, No. 42, Chip Ganassi Racing
17. David Gilliland, No. 38, Front Row Motorsports
18. Landon Cassill, No. 40, Mike Hillman Racing
19. Ryan Newman, No. 31, Richard Childress Racing
20. Clint Bowyer, No. 15, Michael Waltrip Racing*
21. Tony Stewart, No 14. Stewart-Haas Racing*
22. Jamie McMurray, No 1, Chip Ganassi Racing*
23. Cole Whitt, No. 26, Swan Racing
24. Terry Labonte, No. 32, Go FAS Racing
25. Greg Biffle, No. 16, Roush Fenway Racing
26. Bobby Labonte, No. 52, Phoenix Racing*
27. Danica Patrick, No. 10, Stewart-Haas Racing*
28. Casey Mears, No. 13, Germain Racing
29. Alex Bowman, No. 23, BK Racing
30. Carl Edwards, No. 99, Roush Fenway Racing
31. Brian Vickers, No. 55, Michael Waltrip Racing
32. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48, Hendrick Motorsports*
33. Brad Keselowski, No. 2, Team Penske
34. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17, Roush Fenway Racing
35. Joey Logano, No. 22, Team Penske
36. Michael Annett, No. 7, Tommy Baldwin Racing
37. Kyle Busch, No. 18, Joe Gibbs Racing
38. Kevin Harvick, No. 4, Stewart-Haas Racing
39. Reed Sorenson, No. 36, Tommy Baldwin Racing
40. Justin Allgaier, No. 51, Phoenix Racing
41. Parker Kligerman, No. 30, Swan Racing
42. Michael Waltrip, No. 66, Michael Waltrip Racing*
43. David Ragan, No. 34, Front Row Motorsports*

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