Kevin Harvick led the last 44 laps on Thursday night to win the first Gander RV Duel at Daytona 150-mile qualifying race for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Harvick finished .165 seconds ahead of fellow Ford driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who edged Paul Menard at the line for the runner-up position. Matt DiBenedetto ran fourth, followed by Martin Truex Jr. and Bubba Wallace.
With a late pass of Tyler Reddick, who had already qualified for the Daytona 500 based on qualifying speed, Parker Kligerman earned the transfer spot into Sunday’s race.
With two Mustangs behind him, Harvick didn’t expect any outlandish moves in the closing laps.
“I’m just glad we finally came out on the right side of this, and everything’s not tore up,” said Harvick, who had finished fourth, third and second in his previous three Daytona qualifying races.
A two-time Duel winner, and the 2007 Daytona 500 champion, Harvick will start third in Sunday’s race, with Stenhouse behind him in fifth and Menard in seventh.
In a three-wide situation on Lap 26—with Jimmie Johnson on the inside, Kyle Busch in the middle and Tyler Reddick on the outside—Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet moved up the track into the left rear quarter panel of Busch’s Toyota Camry, sending Busch spinning into the infield to cause the 60-lap race’s only caution.
After pitting with a flat tire and exiting alone, Busch soon lost a lap and ultimately finished 18th. But he teamed with Kligerman, a fellow Toyota driver, to make the crucial pass of Reddick.
Daytona 500 pole winner William Byron, who did not compete in last Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash, dropped to the back mid-race and used the final lap for a practice pit stop before coming home 16th—and preserving his car for the top starting spot in Sunday’s Great American Race.