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Posted: Thursday, February 20th 2014 at 11:50pm

Hamlin, Kenseth win Daytona 500 qualifying races with wild ending

By Jenna Fryer, AP Auto Racing Writer
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Clint Bowyer (15) goes airborne in a last lap crash coming to the checkered flag in Thursday night's second Budweiser Duel at Daytona International Speedway. Unadilla, GA's David Ragan (34), Carl Edwards (99) and Michael Waltrip (66) were also involved in the accident, which was triggered when Jimmie Johnson (not pictured) ran out of gas. All drivers escaped injury. / Photo: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (AP) It's been 21 years since Joe Gibbs Racing celebrated its only Daytona 500 victory.

Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth have the team in good position to end the drought.

The JGR drivers swept the Daytona 500 qualifying races Thursday night. For Kenseth, it was redemption after a pair of wrecks during Speedweeks. Hamlin's victory kept him undefeated on 2014.

Hamlin also won last Saturday's exhibition Sprint Unlimited, and he goes into Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500 trying to become the first driver in history to sweep Speedweeks.

"Once that snowball starts to roll, it's hard to stop it, and right now we're just on a heck of a run," said Hamlin, who closed last year with a win in the season finale.

After going so many years without winning a second Daytona 500, team owner Joe Gibbs wasn't looking ahead. His only win was with Dale Jarrett in 1993.

"We've come with great cars over the years. It shows you what a tough race this is, the 500," he said. "This race is extremely, extremely hard to win. That probably says it the best. That says it the best, over 21 years, that's a bunch."

JGR had strong cars last season and seemed to be the team to beat during the race, but came up empty when Kenseth's engine failed while leading. Minutes later, teammate Kyle Busch's engine also failed. Toyota is still looking for its first win in the "Great American Race."

"The last Daytona was so far away, we've moved well beyond that," said Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson. "We're certainly not sweating the issues we had last year."

The qualifying races make for an emotional day as drivers race their way into the Daytona 500, while others are sent home from the biggest event of the NASCAR season.

Those left broken-hearted this year were Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Ryan Truex, Eric McClure and Morgan Shepherd, who at 72 was trying to become the oldest driver in the field. Dave Blaney withdrew from the qualifying race after wrecking his only car in Wednesday's practice.

But it was euphoria for the small teams of Swan Racing, which got both Cole Whitt and Parker Kligerman in the race a day after both drivers wrecked in practice, and Hillman Racing, which will be in the Daytona 500 with Landon Cassill, who was hit by a car Saturday while riding his bike in Daytona.

"I've been stressed out about this since July," Cassill said. "I think I've played this race over in my head, what I think it could do, for months now. For a small team, this race kind of makes our whole season, just the prize money alone to start on Sunday gets us through the next six or seven weeks. It's just huge for us."

For Swan Racing, getting rookies Whitt and Kligerman into the field erased the nightmare of Wednesday.

Whitt wrecked moments into practice, and the team was forced to rebuild his car after Kligerman's was totaled when he went airborne. It was the first time Kligerman was ever upside down. Because Swan has only one backup, Kligerman got it, and the team went to work rebuilding Whitt's car.

Whitt raced his way in, but Kligerman faded in the first race and had to nervously watch the second race unfold to see if he earned a spot in the Daytona 500.

"I feel like in a lot of ways, you have the weight of an organization on your shoulders to get these two cars in the race," Kligerman said. "It's a growing organization, an organization that wants to be around for a long time to come."

But the second race ended in chaos, making everyone unsure of anything as defending Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson ran out of gas on the final lap to trigger a crash that caused Clint Bowyer's car to flip.

"I knew he was saving gas coming to the green. It's too bad to tear cars up like that," Bowyer said. "That was one of the wildest flips I've ever had. I think we would have been just fine if I hadn't hit the grass right here."

Johnson was apologetic.

"I feel terrible. To tear up that many race cars ... to see (Bowyer) flip ... certainly want to apologize to everyone," he said. "I tried to get up out of the way. So much energy in the pack that I knew I was going to get run over if I ran out because guys warned me about it and it did."

The first race was uneventful as Kenseth led two times for 31 of the 60 laps. Harvick pulled out on the final lap to make his bid for the victory. Then Kasey Kahne pulled out of line to make it three-wide.

After the race, Harvick was informed while sitting in the Fox Sports 1 studio as an analyst for the second race that his Chevrolet, sponsored by Budweiser, had failed post-race inspection for the first Budweiser Duel.

"Yeah, well, well, that's no good," Harvick said.

WDUN will have live coverage from MRN Radio of NASCAR Nationwide Series season opening Drive 4 COPD 400 from Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 22 on 102.9 FM beginnng at 11 AM, and live MRN coverage of the Feb. 23 Daytona 500 beginning at Noon on 102.9 FM and at 1 pm on 550 AM.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Daytona International Speedway - Daytona Beach, FL
Budweiser Duel Race 1 - Feb. 20, 2014


1. (9) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 60 laps, 120.7 rating, 0 points, $56,726.
2. (10) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 60, 103.1, 0, $41,713.
3. (6) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 60, 95.2, 0, $36,713.
4. (4) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 60, 118.9, 0, $31,713.
5. (22) Josh Wise, Ford, 60, 68.8, 0, $29,713.
6. (7) Aric Almirola, Ford, 60, 93.9, 0, $27,313.
7. (14) A J Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 60, 90.7, 0, $26,213.
8. (16) David Gilliland, Ford, 60, 88.6, 0, $25,213.
9. (3) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 60, 75, 0, $25,188.
10. (18) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 60, 63.6, 0, $25,163.
11. (20) Cole Whitt, Toyota, 60, 77.4, 0, $25,138.
12. (2) Greg Biffle, Ford, 60, 81.3, 0, $25,113.
13. (13) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 60, 59.3, 0, $25,088.
14. (24) Alex Bowman, Toyota, 60, 45.6, 0, $25,063.
15. (19) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 60, 49.7, 0, $25,038.
16. (8) Joey Logano, Ford, 60, 62.4, 0, $25,013.
17. (17) Parker Kligerman, Toyota, 60, 54.1, 0, $24,988.
18. (1) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 60, 67.2, 0, $24,938.
19. (5) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 60, 47.8, 0, $24,913.
20. (11) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 60, 36.3, 0, $24,888.
21. (21) Michael McDowell, Ford, 59, 27.8, 0, $24,838.
22. (23) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, 59, 29.8, 0, $24,813.
23. (15) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, wheel bearing, 20, 26.6, 0, $24,763.
24. (12) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, penalty, 60, 87, 0, $24,738.

Race Statistics
Average Speed of Race Winner: 192.539 mph.
Time of Race: 0 hours, 46 minutes, 49 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 0.022 seconds.
Caution Flags: 0 for 0 laps.
Lead Changes: 5 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: A.Dillon 1-14; D.Earnhardt Jr. 15-27; M.Kenseth 28-36; D.Earnhardt Jr. 37; K.Kahne 38; M.Kenseth 39-60.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): M.Kenseth, 2 times for 31 laps; D.Earnhardt Jr., 2 times for 14 laps; A.Dillon, 1 time for 14 laps; K.Kahne, 1 time for 1 lap.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Daytona International Speedway - Daytona Beach, FL
Budweiser Duel Race 2 - Feb. 20, 2014


1. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 60 laps, 107.9 rating, 0 points.
2. (4) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 60, 107.7, 0.
3. (14) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 60, 102.9, 0.
4. (5) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 60, 79.4, 0.
5. (6) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 60, 98, 0.
6. (13) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 60, 81.2, 0.
7. (12) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 60, 80.2, 0.
8. (1) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 60, 70.4, 0.
9. (16) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 60, 72.2, 0.
10. (10) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 60, 73.8, 0.
11. (19) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 60, 77.2, 0.
12. (21) Terry Labonte, Ford, 60, 50.7, 0.
13. (22) Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, 60, 50.9, 0.
14. (8) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 60, 71.1, 0.
15. (2) Carl Edwards, Ford, 60, 85, 0.
16. (7) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, accident, 59, 67.7, 0.
17. (20) David Ragan, Ford, accident, 59, 69.5, 0.
18. (17) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, accident, 59, 67.8, 0.
19. (23) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 59, 30.6, 0.
20. (15) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 59, 33, 0.
21. (9) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 59, 34.6, 0.
22. (24) Morgan Shepherd, Toyota, 59, 26.6, 0.
23. (18) Eric McClure, Ford, 57, 34.6, 0.
24. (3) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 57, 92.5, 0.

Race Statistics
Average Speed of Race Winner: 192.651 mph.
Time of Race: 0 hours, 46 minutes, 43 seconds.
Margin of Victory: 0.022 seconds.
Caution Flags: 1 for 1 laps.
Lead Changes: 3 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: M.Truex Jr. 1; B.Keselowski 2-35; C.Mears 36-37; D.Hamlin 38-60.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): B.Keselowski, 1 time for 34 laps; D.Hamlin, 1 time for 23 laps; C.Mears, 1 time for 2 laps; M.Truex Jr., 1 time for 1 lap.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Daytona International Speedway - Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona 500 Starting Line Up


1. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 196.019.
2. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 195.852.
3. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 194.574.
4. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 194.477.
5. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 194.544.
6. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 195.042.
7. (9) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 194.894.
8. (41) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 194.078.
9. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 195.211.
10. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 194.919.
11. (98) Josh Wise, Ford, 192.061.
12. (33) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 194.776.
13. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 194.658.
14. (21) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 194.334.
15. (47) A J Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 194.108.
16. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 194.41.
17. (38) David Gilliland, Ford, 193.736.
18. (40) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 193.732.
19. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 195.707.
20. (15) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 194.523.
21. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 193.365.
22. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 192.695.
23. (26) Cole Whitt, Toyota, 192.538.
24. (32) Terry Labonte, Ford, 192.135.
25. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 195.818.
26. (52) Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, 191.493.
27. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 194.38.
28. (13) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 194.582.
29. (23) Alex Bowman, Toyota, 189.685.
30. (99) Carl Edwards, Ford, 195.712.
31. (55) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 192.798.
32. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 194.637.
33. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 195.296.
34. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 195.004.
35. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 194.582.
36. (7) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 194.574.
37. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 194.502.
38. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 194.422.
39. (36) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 194.066.
40. (51) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 193.815.
41. (30) Parker Kligerman, Toyota, 193.594.
42. (66) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 193.428.
43. (34) David Ragan, Ford, 192.328.

Failed to Qualify
44. (83) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 190.347.
45. (95) Michael McDowell, Ford, 192.291.
46. (87) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, 190.48.
47. (93) Morgan Shepherd, Toyota, 189.542.
48. (35) Eric McClure, Ford, 192.905.
49. (77) Dave Blaney, Ford.

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