He’s back. It’s number four the No. 88. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has won the first of two Budweiser Duel 150 qualifying races at Daytona International Speedway.
Holding off a hard charging Joey Logano, Earnhardt was able to win the Duel to start on the inside of the second row for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Pole sitter Jeff Gordon finished second after running in the top five for the majority of the race, and was able to hold off Logano coming off Turn 4 for the final time.
"I'm so glad to be able to get through the Duel in one piece because I know how good this race car is," Earnhardt said. "We have a couple more practices to go through and try to stay out of trouble during those and put this thing on the grid."
Matt Kenseth, who led a race-high 32 laps, fell to the back of the pack with less than 10 laps to go. During the final caution with five laps remaining in the race, the No. 20 car pitted, but finished 17th.
After being on the edge of making the Daytona 500, Ty Dillon will run his first Daytona 500. Finishing 16th, the grandson of Richard Childress was able to get in based on Gordon not needing a spot in the race since he locked in during qualifying day.
Along with Dillon, Landon Cassill, Cole Whitt, Michael McDowell, JJ Yeley and Michael Annett were able to race their way into the Daytona 500. With the exception of Dillon, each of those drivers were inside of the top 15, which automatically gives them a starting position in the “Great American Race.”
Missing the Daytona 500 are RAB Racing’s Justin Marks, along with The Motorsports Group’s Ron Hornaday, Jr.
Casey Mears blew an engine on Lap 15 while running inside of the top 10. Mears will have to wait until the second Duel is over to find out if he will make the Daytona 500. He was outside of the top 25 in qualifying, but his spot in owner points could prevail to put him in the race.
AJ Allmendinger was inside of the top five at one point during the first Duel on Thursday evening. The No. 47 car was involved in an incident with BK Racing driver Johnny Sauter, and both of them finished outside of the top 20. Allmendinger will make the field based on owner points. Meanwhile, Sauter’s No. 83 car was 13th in qualifying, which means he will be able to fall back on his time.
2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne was running 18th when he got loose and hit the wall entering Turn 3. However, with the owner points from the No. 99 car, Bayne is locked into the Daytona 500.
Using the new pit road technology, four teams were penalized during the 150-mile race.