Kevin Harvick won the first of the 150-mile Budweiser Duel qualifying races at Daytona on Thursday afternoon, setting one half of the grid for Sunday's showpiece 500-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup opener.
This race featured the 500 polesitter, Danica Patrick, plus the entrants that finished in the odd-numbered positions from qualifying last Sunday. Patrick failed to lead the opening lap, though, as fellow front-row sitter Trevor Bayne hit the front form the outside lane.
Bayne led the opening half of the race, until Harvick found a way to make the inside line work and he drafted past just before the pit stops. Swift service kept Harvick, who also won last Saturday's Sprint Unlimited non-points event, out front. He headed Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson until the race's only caution with less than 10 laps to go.
Denny Hamlin got loose off Turn 2 and clipped Carl Edwards, sending the Roush Fenway Ford driver head-on into the wall. He was unhurt.
"I was minding my own business," said Edwards. "I saw in my mirror Denny get sideways – I thought, 'What the &%$'!"
"It's the fourth time we've wrecked a car down here. The car's broke. She's all torn up. At least I know what the wrecks look like here."
Also involved were Bayne and Regan Smith, who collided in a secondary incident after Bayne had already hit Edwards.
Harvick kept the lead at the restart, holding off Biffle as he did on Saturday, ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya, Johnson and Kurt Busch. Montoya did an amazing job to charge to third after he restarted 13th following a pit stop for lengthy repairs under yellow.
Winner Harvick said: "The cars are a lot freer [compared to the night race], but you have to be precise with the timing in the draft, or you get hung out. It was a great race for us again."
Patrick finished in 17th and said: "I learned some. Harvick's got it figured out, hasn't he? The top line is the way to go. I lifted a little at the start. I was really tight in that race."
After the race, Truex was penalized for not having his side window in place, which guaranteed ex-F1 racer Scott Speed's starting spot in the 500.
Results - 60 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet 60 laps
2. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 0.165s
3. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 0.354s
4. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 0.379s
5. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet + 0.446s
6. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 0.535s
7. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford + 0.593s
8. Casey Mears Germain Ford + 0.622s
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 0.678s
10. Joey Logano Penske Ford + 0.730s
11. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 0.738s
12. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 0.811s
13. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota + 0.829s
14. Michael Waltrip Waltrip Toyota + 0.854s
15. Scott Speed Leavine Ford + 0.944s
16. David Reutimann BK Ford + 0.961s
17. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 6.294s
18. Regan Smith Finch Chevrolet + 31.440s
19. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 31.907s
20. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota + 1 lap
21. Brian Keselowski Keseolwski Toyota + 2 laps
Did not finish:
Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 8 laps
Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford + 8 laps