Kevin Harvick celebrates after winning the first of two Budweiser Duel… (John Raoux / Associated…)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kevin Harvick led 23 of the 60 laps to capture the first race in Thursday’s Budweiser Duel at Daytona International Speedway.
It was the 37-year-old’s first Duel victory.
“Obviously, it’s been a great start to Speedweeks,” said Harvick, who also captured Saturday night’s The Sprint Unlimited race.
Danica Patrick started on the pole for Thursday’s race, but dropped to the back of the field to protect her pole position for Sunday’s race. She earned the pole position for the Daytona 500 after putting up the fastest qualifying time last Sunday. Patrick finished the race in 18th place.
The highest 15 finishers from each Duel, minus Patrick and Jeff Gordon who qualified Sunday, will advance to the field of 43 for Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Greg Biffle finished second followed by Juan Pablo Montoya in third.
Montoya started at the back of the pack after suffering engine problems. He originally qualified seventh Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five.
Michael Waltrip, who was driving a special tribute car for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Newtown, grabbed the 14th spot.
“It’s just an honor to just be able to race this car,” said Waltrip. “We know we are going to give them something to smile at the Daytona 500.”
Scott Speed landed the final spot at No. 15.
A wreck on Lap 52 knocked sent out the caution flag after Denny Hamlin spun out in front of Carl Edwards, Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne.
The first Duel will feature all of the drivers who qualified in the odd positions and how they finish will determine the inside lane of Sunday’s starting lineup while the second race will feature the drivers who qualified in the even positions and will determine the outside lane.
The next four spots will go to the four fastest drivers from Sunday’s qualifying who didn’t already earn a spot followed by six spots based on provisional owners points. The final spot is usually given to a past champion or the next highest drivers based on owners points.
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