Duel Domination: Matt Kenseth & Denny Hamlin win qualifying races under lights for Sunday's Daytona 500

Joe Gibs racers sweep nighttime races

Duel 1 race at Daytona won by Matt Kenseth / Headline Surfer®Denny Hamlin wins 2nd Duel race at Daytona / Headline Surfer®Videos uploaded from YouTube /
Big crash in Duel No. 2 at Daytona International Speedway; 2nd video from fan in the grandstands.
Photos / Getty Images/NASCAR / for Headline Surfer® /
Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 wins Duel race 1 and Denny Hamlin in No. 11 wins Duel race 2 on Thursday night under the lights at Daytona International Speedway. The Duel races helped set the field for Sunday's Daytona 500, with No. 3 Sprint Cup rookie Austin Dillon already on the pole and Martin Truex Jr. joining him on the outside front row.
 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Joe Gibbs Racing swept the inaugural nighttime running of the Budweiser Duel at Daytona with Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin finishing atop the scoring pylon in their respective 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway.

Kenseth, who led a race-high 31 laps in the first qualifying race, was the victor in a three-wide finish at the checkered flag, edging out Kevin Harvick by .022 seconds with Kasey Kahne a close third.

Duel 2 car airborne at Daytona / Headline Surfer®Getty Images / NASCAR / for Headline Surfer® / Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 15 Toyota, David Ragan, driver of the No. 34 Ford, and Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Duel 2 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.
 

It was later announced that Harvick’s No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet failed post-race inspection nullifying his finish in the race. “Certainly (the win) felt good,” said Kenseth, who has won a Budweiser Duel two of the last three years. “The last few days haven’t felt great. To get the car in the front today and keep it there, win (the race), it certainly builds confidence in all of us, makes us feel like we can go out and get the job done if everybody does their jobs and we do everything right.”

Hamlin has dominated Budweiser Speedweeks thus far, winning The Sprint Unlimited last Saturday night and leading 23 of the 60 laps on the way to his win in the second Budweiser Duel. Hamlin was followed across the finish line by three-time Daytona 500 champion Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch.

Denny Hamlin press conference at Daytona / Headline Surfer®Headline Surfer® photo by Henry Frederick /
Denny Hamlin, in the middle, with team owner Joe Gibbs to his left in the white shirt, addresses repoirters Thursday night in the media center at Daytona International Speedway after his win in the second Duel race.
 

“We just need to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Hamlin who picked up his fifth career win at the “World Center of Racing.”

Hamlin added, “We’re on a roll and once that snowball starts to roll, it’s hard to stop it. Right now we’re just on a heck of a run.

When asked about what he needs to do to become the first driver to sweep Budweiser Speedweeks which culminates with the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Hamlin responded, “The biggest challenge I’ll have is to keep the reigns back for 450 miles. (The 500 is) going to be a much longer race and when you go out there and perform the way we have over these last few races, it’s hard not to just charge out there and show that you’re still on top and still the best right on Lap 1.

When asked about what he needs to do to become the first driver to sweep Budweiser Speedweeks which culminates with the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Hamlin responded, “The biggest challenge I’ll have is to keep the reigns back for 450 miles. (The 500 is) going to be a much longer race and when you go out there and perform the way we have over these last few races, it’s hard not to just charge out there and show that you’re still on top and still the best right on Lap 1.

Hamlin added, "That will be my challenge within myself – keeping the reigns back and realizing how long it is and try to be as patient as I can.”

As Hamlin prepared to take the checkered flag, defending Daytona 500 and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson ran out of fuel entering the tri-oval, resulting in a nine-car crash.

Among the bubble drivers that secured starting spots in “The Great American Race” on Sunday were Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates Cole Whitt and Alex Bowman, Landon Cassill, Josh Wise and Brian Scott.

Failing to qualify for Sunday’s 56th annual Daytona 500 were Ryan Truex Jr., Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Eric McClure, Dave Blaney and 72-year-old Morgan Shepherd.

Tickets:

Tickets for NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious race – the 56th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, start at $65 and are available at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. 
Information from Daytona International Speedway public relations specialist Andrew Booth was provided to Headline Surfer® for this story.

Henry Frederick at Daytona International Speedway in 2001 / Headline Surfer®About the Writer: Henry Frederick

Headline Surfer® photo / Henry Frederick is shown in the pits where Bobby Labonte's race car was stationed for the 2001 Daytona 500. at Daytona International Speedway.
Henry Frederick, publisher and founder of Headline Surfer®, and accessed via HeadlineSurfer.com, Florida's first fully-online newspaper, launched April 7, 2008 (,initially as NSBNews.net), was at the track the day Dale Earnhardt, Sr., was killed in the 2001 Daytona 500. He covered widow Teresa Earnhardt's successful civil trial in a Daytona Beach courtroom that kept her husband's autopsy photos sealed from the media. He's covered every Daytona 500 and July 4 weekend race at Daytona, from 1996 to the present, with the exception of 2005 and 2006, when he was working as a city editor for the Tauon (Mass.) Daily Gazette, flying back and forth to his Florida home on weekends. Frederick has won numerous journalisnm industry awards in his 30-plus years at media outlets in Florida, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, including the following awards related to NASCAR racing:
 
Award for Daytona 500 coverage / Headline Surfer®Florida Press Club
2012 Journalism Contest
First Place
Blog Writing
NASCAR Hall of Fame announcement fuels memories of 1979 Daytona 500
Posted Wed, 2011-06-15 01:15
 Others:
-- Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Chapter, 2003, 1st place/large newspapers, Sports Reporting "Lawsuit monopoly justifies splitting up NASCAR."
-- Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, 2003, 3rd place, Sports, "Lawsuit: Monopoly justifies splitting up NASCAR."
-- Florida Press Club, 2002, 3rd place, excellence in general news writing, "Lawsuit: Monopoly justifies splitting up NASCAR"
Henry Frederick Picture

Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com for a decade now. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards in print anddigital platforms. Frederick is enrolled at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's three-fourths through the online Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation is in August.