Kevin Harvick, driving for Richard Childress racing, has finally succeeded in his twelfth attempt, winning the first 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Budweiser Duel at Daytona. Harvick took the lead halfway through the sixty-lap race and held it through the single green-flag pit stop, holding off Roush-Fenway’s Greg Biffle by .165 seconds.
Juan Pablo Montoya edged Jimmie Johnson for third by .025 seconds.
After the race, Harvick told ESPN that the cars were a bit of a handful on the hot Daytona track—the temperature, 74 degrees, was the highest of any time the cars had run.
The first Duel was also the first time the new Generation-Six NASCAR cars had raced in a pack at speed—despite some teams running in small groups in practice, no one knew exactly who the new car would handle the complicated aero forces of running in packs.
“The cars were definitely a little freer; my car was a little bit free up off the corner but man, the way the draft worked out you were really had to be precise on timing because if you weren’t you’d get hung out,” Harvick explained.
Harvick and his crew seemed able to master whatever differences the track and the aero; his car was quick in practice and in the race, earning him a good starting spot in Sunday’s race.
Michael Waltrip finished sixteenth, the last spot which automatically earns the driver a grid spot in Sunday’s Daytona 500. Waltrip beat Scott Speed to the checkered flag by .09 seconds.
After the race was over, Martin Truex, who finished sixth, was disqualified for a technical violation and was dropped to 19th, giving Scott Speed a spot in the 500 after all.
The race ran without incident until the 52nd lap when Denny Hamlin got loose and nudged Carl Edwards, sending him into the wall where he was then T-boned by Trevor Bayne. Neither car could continue but neither driver was injured.
Bayne took the lead from pole-sitter Danica Patrick on the first lap but blew a tire entering the pits on lap 42, dropping Bayne to 11th overall.
Daytona Duel Two starts at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Tickets for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 are available through NASCAR.com.
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