DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— Daytona 500 pole sitter, Chase Elliott, and Denny Hamlin won their Can-Am Duel and now hold 10 championship points heading into Sunday’s Daytona 500.
This is Elliott’s first career win in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, albeit in a non-points race. This is Hamlin’s third career win in the Can-Am Duel.
“Oh, man we had such a fast NAPA Chevy tonight. I didn’t think anybody was going to help us there at the first part of the race and I had a couple good pushes to get us out front and our spotter did a great job on the roof making sure he was calling the lanes correctly and we were able to get back in front,” said Elliott.
“Yeah, it was great. Great car. Got a great push there for Austin (Dillon). We worked really well together that entire race. I’ll keep that in mind in the 500. It looked like our cars were really good together. I can’t thank this team enough for a great job by Wheels (Mike Wheeler, crew chief). FedEx announced their renewal today so that’s a great sign of a great year hopefully to come,” said Hamlin.
For Elliott, he started the race from the pole position. After leading the first lap, Elliott was shuffled back, but stayed towards the front of the field.
When the field went back to green after the competition caution, Elliott was towards the front and was able to gain the lead after Brad Keselowski got loose, stacking the field on lap 37. Elliott was able to hold off the pack blocking both lanes to go towards victory. Jamie McMurray finished second, Kevin Harvick finished third, Keselowski finished fourth, and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five.
Corey LaJoie was able to race his way into Sunday’s Daytona 500. LaJoie made contact with Reed Sorenson, who was also racing for a spot in the 500 in the tri-oval. Sorenson went high and LaJoie filled the spot as Sorenson went back down sending Sorenson hard into the inside wall, collecting Paul Menard.
“Every kid in a race car dreams of racing in a Daytona 500 and I get to do that on Sunday. I really do feel bad about Reed (Sorenson). I just tried to fill a hole and it was getting down to it and I probably did have position on him but man when I’m trying to get into the Daytona 500 if my mom was in that spot I’d probably wreck her too. I’m racing on Sunday. Chase (Elliott) is in victory lane – good job to him and I’ll see you guys on Sunday in the Dustless Blasting Camry,” said LaJoie.
In the second duel, Hamlin started in the third position and battled Dale Earnhardt Jr. early on to gain the lead.
When Hamlin tried to block Earnhardt Jr., Hamlin went for the block, but Jr. went the opposite to regain the lead from Hamlin. Hamlin attempted to regain the lead, but had no drafting partner and was shuffled backwards and the field went single file. Hamlin tried to get the bottom lane to work, but drivers continued to ride single-file, but as the competition caution approached, the field broke from single file formation.
When Hamlin went down pit road, he was busted for driving through too many pit stalls and had to start at the rear of the field.
Despite the penalty, Hamlin crept his way towards the front. Hamlin was able to get up to the second position in the closing moments of the race. With the help of Austin Dillon on the second to last lap, Hamlin was able to pass Jr. in turn three to score the victory. Bowyer finished second, Kurt Busch finished third, AJ Allmendinger finished fourth, and A. Dillon rounded out the top-five.
DJ Kennington was able to race his way in by finishing ahead of Sadler by .039 seconds to race in the Daytona 500.
“Man does that sound good. Castrol and Lordco, everybody that’s made this happen for me, Dwight Kennedy’s done a lot in my racing career. My dad, my whole family, my wife, my kids. It’s a huge moment for us. Marty Gaunt, Gaunt Brothers Racing, Toyota, everybody that has helped us get here today, I don’t even know how to explain it. I feel like I won the Daytona 500. The 7 (Elliott Sadler) car there, it was locked in on time. I thought he was going to be a little more cautious than that. But we had to race him right to the line and I wouldn’t want it any other way. That was awesome,” said Kennington.
Timmy Hill and Reed Sorenson were unable to make the 500 based on qualifying times and performance in the Can-Am Duel. Brendan Gaughan and Sadler will also join Kennington and LaJoie on Sunday in the Daytona 500.
The Daytona 500 will consist of drives from Canada, Mexico, and the United States of America.