With 23 laps to go, Denny Hamlin would take the lead after the last set of pit stops and held off Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon as chaos insured behind them with a big wreck as the field came to the checkered flag.
It marks Hamlin’s second straight win as he won the Sprint Unlimited last Saturday night.
“We just keep doing what we’re doing. We’re on a roll, obviously. We executed the race today great,” the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota commented. “I kind of watched and learned what happened in the first Duel with the 20. He decided to keep the high line going even on the white flag lap. I felt like going ahead and protecting bottom early with a lap to go was better for us. Either way, we still came out on top. So it’s a good executed race.”
Kurt Busch would finish second as he begins his new journey this year with Stewart-Haas Racing.
“What a fantastic night for the Haas Automation Chevy,” he said. “Thanks to Gene Haas for giving me this shot. Building a team over the off-season with Daniel Knost, it’s been a great progression. To deliver on our first night a top-five finish, that’s solid.”
Jeff Gordon finished third, followed by Richard Childress Racing teammates Paul Menard and Brian Scott.
“I’m really happy with our racecar,” Gordon commented. “I think we snuck in there with a quiet, under the radar, very fast car that’s capable of winning this race. I like it that way. Let some of those other guys get all the attention and get that target on their back. And hopefully we can just go along our week working hard to get in that perfect position on Sunday.”
Trevor Bayne finished sixth as he looks for his second Daytona 500 victory, followed by Kyle Larson. Martin Truex Jr. crossed the line eighth and had locked in a spot on the front row for the Daytona 500, however will have to start the 500 at the rear due to a back-up as a result of damage sustained in the last lap wreck.
“It stinks for the guys… It doesn’t matter where you start anyway,” Truex Jr. said afterwards. “It’s not the end of the world, we’ll have to go to work on the backup car.”
Coming off of turn four on the last lap, Jimmie Johnson slowed and moved up the track while running fourth, causing Jamie McMurray to make contact with him. The result was the pair crashing into the wall, followed by cars making contact with each other and the wall behind them.
Johnson said afterwards that he tried to move out the way due to being out of fuel.
“I feel terrible. I tried to get up out of the way but I knew I was going to get run over,” he added. “Thankfully everyone is alright.”
“I had a feeling that the 24 (Gordon) and 48 (Johnson) were going to make a move and I think the 27 (Menard) went down below before we all expected. I was content in running behind him and then he slid up there,” McMurray commented. “I heard that he was out of gas but it’s so hard to not get out there with things happening so fast. I’m glad to hear that he was out of gas because I thought I had caused that wreck
Clint Bowyer had the wildest ride of those involved as he did a complete 360 in the air.
“I would grade it as a fail,” Bowyer said of his flip. “I thought I heard the 48 ran out of gas – put us all in a bad situation. When I felt someone hit me, I knew I was in trouble. It’s an eerie silence when you’re upside down. You’re worried about the landing.”
Also involved in the wreck beyond those mentioned above was Michael Waltrip, David Ragan and Carl Edwards. Edwards will be able to repair his car, while the rest of the drivers involved will need to go to a back-up.
Kyle Larson finished ninth, followed by Bowyer and McMurray.
Terry and Bobby Labonte had both lost the draft and were running more than 10 seconds behind the field, however were able to finish 12th and 13th as a result of the wreck and race their way into the Daytona 500.
Casey Mears, who ran out of gas late and had to pit under green, avoided the wreck and finished 14th to also make the Daytona 500. Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson finished 15th and 16th to become the last two drivers to race their way in via the Budweiser Duel.
Drivers that would either rely on their Sunday speed or owner points to make it in, or not make the show included everybody else in the field. David Ragan finished 17th, followed by Michael Waltrip, Ryan Truex Jr., Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, Morgan Shepherd, Eric McClure and Brad Keselowski.
Brad Keselowski led the entire middle portion of the event, though speed coming off pit road during his pit stop, and then suffered a flat tire while serving the penalty.
With both Budweiser Duels in the books, the five drivers failing to make the Daytona 500 will be Ryan Truex Jr., Eric McClure, Joe Nemechek, Michael McDowell and Morgan Shepherd.
The full Daytona 500 starting lineup is available below….
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Daytona 500 Starting Lineup
Daytona International Speedway
Provided by NASCAR Statistics