NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
 
          === Kenseth, Hamlin win qualifying races for Daytona 500 ===
 
 Daytona  Beach, FL  (SportsNetwork.com) - Matt Kenseth won the first Budweiser
 Duel  in  a photo finish,  while his Joe  Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin,
 claimed  the  victory amid  a wild  last-lap crash  in Thursday night's second
 qualifier for the Daytona 500.
 
 The  first  Duel at Daytona  International Speedway  ran caution free, and the
 second  event had  been without an incident until a nine-car wreck occurred on
 the  final turn  of the last lap.  Clint Bowyer rolled on top of David Ragan's
 car and did a 360-degree roll in the air before it landed upright.
 
 "I  felt somebody hit me and I was like, "Oh boy!" Bowyer said. "It's an eerie
 silence  right there,  and you're  always  wondering what's  going to  happen.
 You're more nervous about what's going to happen when it lands."
 
 Jimmie  Johnson,  who won his  second Daytona 500  and sixth Sprint Cup Series
 championship  last year,  triggered the pileup when he ran out of gas, causing
 Jamie  McMurray to bump into the back of him. Johnson slammed into the outside
 wall  and then  came down the track  before he collided into McMurray again on
 the  infield grass. The front end of his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
 briefly erupted into flames. There were no injuries.
 
 "I  feel terrible  about tearing  up that  many race  cars and  seeing the  15
 [Bowyer]  flip,"  Johnson said. "I certainly  want to apologize to everyone. I
 tried  to get up out  of the way and had my hand out the side, but on the last
 lap  coming  to the  checkered, there's  so much  going on.  There was so much
 energy  in the  pack that I knew  I was going to get  run over if I ran out of
 fuel. Thankfully, everybody is alright."
 
 Johnson qualified 32nd for Sunday's Daytona 500.
 
 Others  involved in  the crash were: Martin Truex Jr., who had already secured
 the  second  starting spot for  the Daytona 500  in last Sunday's time trials,
 Carl  Edwards, Justin  Allgaier and Michael Waltrip, who is also Bowyer's team
 owner. Waltrip's car smashed into wall along the entrance to pit road.
 
 Hamlin's win in the second Duel came five days after his victory in The Sprint
 Unlimited  preseason  race at Daytona.  He also  concluded the 2013 Sprint Cup
 season with a win at Homestead.
 
 "We're  on  a roll," Hamlin said.  "We executed the race great. Didn't execute
 the  first part of the race that well, trying to make moves, trying not to run
 single  file.  I kind of wanted  to spice things up  a little bit. It ended up
 taking me to the rear for the most part. But fought our way back."
 
 Kenseth  and Hamlin placed their JGR Toyotas on the second row for the Daytona
 500. However, Kenseth and Hamlin will move up to the second and third starting
 positions,  respectively, since  Truex will have to start from the rear of the
 field in a backup car.
 
 "It  stinks for my  guys [No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team] who worked so hard
 and  gave me a great race car," Truex said. "For somebody to run out of gas on
 the last corner of the last lap, you never really think that can happen. It is
 what  it is.  We'll get our backup  car out. It doesn't matter where you start
 this race anyway."
 
 Kenseth,  a  two-time Daytona 500  winner, nipped  Kevin Harvick to the finish
 line  by  only 0.022  seconds, while  Kasey Kahne crossed  the line just 0.063
 seconds behind. Kenseth led 31 of 60 laps. He won the Duel and the Daytona 500
 two years ago.
 
 Harvick grabbed the lead from Kenseth as they came out of the last turn on the
 final  lap,  but Kenseth quickly  moved to the outside  of him and then pulled
 ahead for good.
 
 "At  the end, I  saw Kevin making that move," Kenseth said. "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  No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet failed post-race inspection and
 therefore  his time  was disallowed in the event, dropping him to a last-place
 finish  in the 24-car  field. His car exceeded the maximum split on track bar.
 He will start 38th in the Daytona 500, based on his third-place finish in last
 year's car owner points.
 
 It had been a tough week for Kenseth at Daytona prior to his Duel win.
 
 In  last Saturday's  Sprint Unlimited, Kenseth caused a big wreck when he spun
 after  Joey Logano bumped him from behind. Nine of the 18 drivers in that race
 were  involved  in the crash.  During Wednesday's practice, Kenseth and Logano
 made  contact  again, which  started  a  frightening  seven-car crash  on  the
 frontstretch.  Parker  Kligerman's  car  plowed into  the  SAFER  barrier  and
 catchfence before it rolled over onto its roof and slid down the track.
 
 "Walking  in the  garage,  honestly,  like today  [Thursday],  I  was kind  of
 embarrassed  to walk  in the garage," Kenseth admitted. "They're probably not,
 maybe some of them are, but I feel like they're looking at you cross-eyed when
 you're walking by."
 
 The  rash  of multi-car wrecks  at Daytona within  the past week prompted many
 drivers to race cautiously in the Duel.
 
 "I think we've all done a pretty good job at tearing a few things up along the
 way  so far,"  Harvick said. "I think everybody was a little bit conservative.
 There  was  only 18  cars in  the Unlimited, and  we tore  the whole field up.
 Everybody  wanted to  do what they had to  do to get the best finish that they
 could. Those of us running up front tried to win the race. It just didn't time
 out exactly perfect."
 
 Rookies  Cole  Whitt and  Alex Bowman earned  a spot in  the Daytona 500 after
 finishing  among the top-15  in the first Duel. Both drivers had to race their
 way  into  the 500. Whitt  wrecked his No. 26  Swan Racing Toyota in practice,
 just prior to his teammate Kligerman, also a rookie, having his crash.
 
 "We  weren't ready to  give up," Whitt said. "We knew coming down here, it was
 already  hard for us to even get down here, let alone the things that happened
 to our team [Wednesday], not just our car, from Swan Racing losing two cars."
 
 Kligerman  finished 17th in the opening Duel and had to wait until the outcome
 of  the  final event to find  out if he had  qualified for the Daytona 500. He
 earned the 41st starting spot one day after his horrifying wreck.
 
 "Pretty  big  change, eh?" Kligerman  said. "We'll start there. Obviously that
 was  a  letdown [Wednesday]. One  of the most  interesting moments of my life,
 sliding on your roof."
 
 Notable drivers and their starting positions for the Daytona 500 include: Jeff
 Gordon  (6th)  Dale Earnhardt  Jr. (9th), Tony  Stewart (21st), Danica Patrick
 (27th),  Edwards (30th),  Brad Keselowski  (33rd), Logano  (35th), Kyle  Busch
 (37th) and Waltrip (42nd). Ragan claimed the final starting spot.
 
 Keselowski led the most laps in the second Duel with 34 but received a penalty
 for  speeding on pit  road and then suffered a flat tire, requiring him to pit
 again and therefore put him three laps behind. He finished 24th.
 
 Ryan  Truex, Michael  McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Morgan Shepherd and Eric McClure
 failed to qualify.
 
 Earlier  in the day, Dave Blaney withdrew from the Daytona 500. Blaney was one
 of  the  seven drivers  involved  in  Wednesday's  practice crash.  His  Randy
 Humphrey  Racing  team did not have  a backup car  and could not obtain one to
 compete in the first Duel.
 
 02/21 01:54:46 ET

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