After taking the lead after a round of pit stops on lap 26, Jimmie Johnson would hold off all challenges en route to scoring the victory in the second Budweiser Duel at Daytona.
“It’s a special night. What a race car,” Johnson said. “That car is mad first. I’m stoked for my teammate (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) to win the first duel. We won the second, and Jeff (Gordon) and I have the front row locked down. It’s been an awesome week for all our Hendrick Motorsports cars. A big shout out to all the guys in the shops and a big shout out to my awesome sponsor Lowe’s. I’m just happy to start out the week like we have.”
Johnson had already locked himself into a second place starting spot for the Daytona 500 during the qualifying session last Sunday. The victory for Johnson gives Hendrick Motorsports a sweep of the Budweiser Duels.
Kyle Busch would lead the first 25 laps, though lost the lead on pit road as a result of a pit road speeding penalty.
“I thought our race was pretty good,” he commented. “I wish we would have won obviously – just one short. We were a restart off. I didn’t get the best of jumps there, Jimmie (Johnson) did – really bad on me. That just kind of set the tone for the final two laps, but proud to have a fast Crispy M&M’s Camry there. It made us look a lot better there than it did in the Sprint Unlimited, so proud of that.”
Carl Edwards would finish 19th as he starts off a new chapter with Joe Gibbs Racing this season, followed by Greg Biffle and Martin Truex Jr.
Ryan Blaney finished sixth in his debut with the Wood Brothers, followed by Reed Sorenson.
“It was a really smooth race for us,” Sorenson commented. “Everything went our way. We were really smooth on pit road the one time we came down and that’s all we can really ask for is to try to control the things we control – no mistakes on pit road, and everything else is kind of up in the air. You never know if you’re gonna get caught up in a wreck. Luckily, we were ahead of those incidents tonight and didn’t get caught up in a wreck like some other guys did, and just fortunate to be in the spot we were at. I thought out car had really good speed.”
Sorenson wrecked during Sunday’s qualifying session and stated afterwards that he did not have a back-up car, but his XTREME Motorsports team spent Monday putting together a car to get him into the event.
“I’m real proud of these guys,” Sorenson said. “Monday morning, we didn’t know if it would be possible to pull it off. But we did. I’m extremely happy for all the guys back in Charlotte that worked on this car and all the work these guys had to do when they got here. They had a lot left and did an awesome job putting it together. It’s a big deal for a team like this to make the Daytona 500. I’m proud of everyone, and now we can have fun. We have nothing to lose in the race and we’re gonna give it all we’ve got.”
Mike Wallace finished eighth to transfer, followed by Justin Allgaier and Danica Patrick.
Patrick had to fight back to the top-10 after getting caught up in a wreck with four laps to go. Denny Hamlin tried to give Patrick a bump from behind going into the corner, turning her down across Brian Scott’s nose. Bobby Labonte and Ryan Newman also made contact in the process.
“First and foremost the GoDaddy car is in the (Daytona) 500 and that was what we wanted to accomplish today,” she commented. “Kurt (Busch) my teammate was great help at the end I went high and he was right there with me. We got a finish out of it. But I mean the incident with Denny (Hamlin) I am all about learning. I’m all about doing the right thing, but he said he needs to run close to move forward. Well you are turning me and it happened in practice too when he cut across my rear bumper. It pulls the back end around. That is why it looked like I tracked down, but I was just going down the straightaway. Here we are in the race and I’m seeing him in my mirror and he’s so tucked up underneath me, so close. I get being close, but he is then going to my left rear. It just gets it light and it spun around. I don’t want to have these issues, but if we are going to have these issues then we are going to have to deal with them. We can’t be putting ourselves out of the race on someone else’s expense.”
Patrick would have a conversation with Denny Hamlin post-race, as it marks the second incident this week between the pair.
“I was just trying to get – push her (Danica Patrick) – and get close, but I didn’t – no contact made her spin,” Hamlin explained. “I just said, ‘You’ve got to tighten her car up.’ I can’t predict who has a loose setup or not. I mean, we’re superspeedway racing. I treat her as equal as anyone on the race track. She deserves her spot here, but you have to be able to run close to somebody on a superspeedway. You have to have your car stable enough to handle those situations and, to me, it’s not much different than what it was with the 22 (Joey Logano) and the 4 (Kevin Harvick) last week only I wasn’t pushing her. I was just close to her and her car got loose and she spun. Thank goodness she got her way in the 500. I didn’t want to be responsible for that. I treat her as an equal on the race track. I’m not going to say, ‘It’s Danica, so I’ve got to make sure I just leave some extra room.’ If you’re out here in the Cup Series, you have to be able to handle those situations.”
Newman would fight his way back to 11th, followed by Kurt Busch, David Gilliland and David Ragan. Ragan also had to fight his way back after going for a spin at lap 23. Ragan would come cross the front of Allgaier, turning himself down the track and making slight contact with the inside frontstretch wall.
“I can’t describe the emotions that went through that 60 lap race,” Ragan commented. “Early on I didn’t think that we were going to have an opportunity to get on the lead lap. I didn’t know how our car was going to handle because it had damage. I can’t say enough about our Front Row Motorsports team. KFC is on-board this weekend and we have a good looking race car and I can’t be more proud to have them in the Daytona 500. Bob Jenkins has put a lot into this effort. To have three Front Row Motorsports cars locked into the Great American Race is a great accomplishment. I am excited. The good Lord was looking after us tonight. I can’t say enough about our team. We have two more days to perfect our backup car, to tune on this car and we will have a good shot to win that Daytona 500.”
Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. would complete the top 16.
The second Budweiser Duel would also feature a big wreck as Sam Hornish Jr. and Jeb Burton would bounce off of each other, with Burton then getting into Hornish and turning him into Alex Bowman, triggering the wreck. Austin Dillon would also catch a piece of the wreck in the process.
“The 9 (Hornish) came up a little bit and it caught me really loose,” Burton commented. “I got weaving back and forth and got back into the 9. These cars are so on the edge and it’s very disappointing. Hate that we got tore up, but we’ll just keep fight.”
“Just really thankful for everybody at TBR and being part of Team Chevy,” Bowman said. “It’s my fault. I caught the 11 there and tried to go to the outside of him and obviously the 19 went with him as that’s his teammate. It’s my fault that we got back there. if we’re in the Daytona 500, that’s great. if we aren’t, we’ll go get them at Atlanta.”
“Just looked like the 26 (Burton) might of got tight, had a bunch of steering wheel in there and just came around on him,” Hornish explained. “It’s so cool out there that there’s a lot of grip, leading to a lot of three-wide racing. We were just trying to keep the car clean. Got a little bump there – thought we’d be okay, and then got a big hit and got turned into the wall.”
The incident would result in Burton and Bowman being two of the drivers to miss the Daytona 500.