DAYTONA BEACH , Fla. – Kevin Harvick claimed the first Gander RV Duel qualifying race Thursday night, securing a spot in the second row of Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500.
Harvick finished 0.165 seconds ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to earn his second career Duel victory. Paul Menard finished third as Ford swept the top three spots of the first Duel with the debut of the new Mustang chassis.
“I am so proud of everyone and the work they have done to transition over to the Mustang and I have to thank everyone at Ford,” Harvick said.
Matt DiBenedetto was the highest finising Toyota in fourth, edging Martin Truex Jr., who moved to Joe Gibbs Racing following the 2018 season. Bubba Wallace finished sixth to lead the Cheverolet contingent.
Parker Kligerman, one of the drivers that didn’t have a guaranteed spot in the Daytona 500, secured a berth with a 12th-place finish.
Kyle Busch lost control of his Toyota when it appeared Jimmie Johnson came into contact midway though the race. Busch spun out, but his car didn’t suffer any major damage outside a couple flat tires in the accident that brought out a caution. He finished 18th in Duel 1.
“I just got it wrong, clearly. ” Johnson, who finished eighth, said in a broadcast interview after the race. “We were three-wide. I just kind of misjudged that situation and tried to tuck in behind Kyle. Unfortunately, I just turned him around. Sincere apologies to he and his team.”
Johnson asked his Hendrick Motorsports team to convey his apologies to Busch immediately after the contact, but Busch was unforgiving.
“Tell him I don’t want to hear it. Tell him to use his eyeballs. That’s twice in two races he’s done the same thing,” Busch said over the radio, using expletives to note that Johnson also caused a 16-car accident in Sunday’s exhibition race.
Brad Keselowski, another former Cup Series champion seeking his first Daytona 500 victory like Busch, was penalized twice in short order early in the first Duel. The first penalty was for pitting outside the pit box and earning one-lap drive-thru penalty, then he got caught speeding on pit road when he served that penalty. That put him to laps down before the midway point of the race. Keselowski finished 20th.
“Looks like just a discrepancy over what the rules are and we got the bad end of it tonight,” Keselowski said. “It is what it is. We will start the Daytona 500 from the back and have to go from there. The good news is that Daytona is a place where you can move up. It is just going to take us awhile to get there.”
William Byron started on the pole after topping qualifying on Sunday. Byron, who finished 16th, is locked into the front row for the Daytona 500 along with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman, who lead the field to green for Duel 2. Byron finished 16th.