NASCAR Cup: Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin snag Duel wins: Daytona 500 grid set
Chase Elliott celebrates in victory lane after winning the first Can-Am Duel at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 23, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr. already had their Daytona 500 front-row starting spots secured heading into Thursday night’s Can-Am Duel races at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Still, they went after race wins while their fellow-competitors raced for the other 38 spots on the Daytona 500 starting grid.
Elliott was victorious in the first Duel, and Earnhardt dominated the second Duel, leading nearly every lap and looking to be en route to a Duel win of his own, but instead, he dropped from the lead to sixth on the final lap. Joining Elliott in celebrating Duel wins on Thursday night was Denny Hamlin.
“I just had a lot of steam under the hood,” Elliott said. “The temperatures tonight being kind of cool, it really suited our car well. Just a great wway to start the season. I know it’s just a Duel win. We wished it counted towards the playoffs. We would rather it be on Sunday, but at the same time, it means a lot to me. It means a lot to our team. It means a lot to NAPA and having this car in NAPA colors tonight.”
Hamlin on his Duel win:
“It was great. Great car. Got a great push, there, from Austin (Dillon). We worked really well together that entire race. I’ll keep that in mind for 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.”
On the opposite end of the Daytona 500 spectrum were Reed Sorenson and Timmy Hill. Sorenson hit the inside retaining wall head-on after making contact with Corey LaJoie inside the final 15 laps of the first Duel race. Hill exited the second Duel on lap 29. With early exits from their respective races, Sorenson and Hill were the two drivers on he outside looking in when Daytona 500 starting spots were handed out.
“I really do feel bad about Reed,” LaJoie said. “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.”
Drivers from “open” teams getting into the Daytona 500 included Brendan Gaughan and LaJoie from Duel one and Elliott Sadler and Canadian driver D.J. Kennington from the second Duel.
Below is the complete starting grid for Sunday’s Daytona 500, based, primarily, on the results of the Can-Am Duel races:
Row 1 — Chase Elliott (No. 24 Chevrolet), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)
Row 2 — Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet), Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
Row 3 — Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Ford), Clint Bowyer (No. 14 Ford)
Row 4 — Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford), Kurt Busch (No. 41 Ford)
Row 5 — Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Toyota), A.J. Allmendinger (No. 47 Chevrolet)
Row 6 — Trevor Bayne (No. 6 Ford), Austin Dillon (No. 3 Chevrolet)
Row 7 — Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Toyota), Danica Patrick (No. 10 Ford)
Row 8 — Aric Almirola (No. 43 Ford), Ryan Newman (No. 31 Chevrolet)
Row 9 — Joey Logano (No. 22 Ford), Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chevrolet)
Row 10 — Cole Whitt (No. 72 Ford), Ty Dillon (No. 13 Chevrolet)
Row 11 — Daniel Suarez (No. 19 Toyota), David Ragan (No. 38 Ford)
Row 12 — Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota), Michael McDowell (No. 95 Chevrolet)
Row 13 — Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Ford), Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
Row 14 — Matt DiBenedetto (No. 32 Ford), Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet)
Row 15 — Landon Cassill (No. 34 Ford), D.J. Kennington (No. 96 Toyota)
Row 16 — Chris Buescher (No. 37 Chevrolet), Michael Waltrip (No. 15 Toyota)
Row 17 — Joey Gase (No. 23 Toyota), Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 33 Chevroelt)
Row 18 — Corey LaJoie (No. 83 Toyota), Erik Jones (No. 77 Toyota)
Row 19 — Paul Menard (No. 27 Chevrolet), Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Ford)
Row 20 — Brendan Gaughan (No. 75 Chevrolet), Elliott Sadler (No. 7 Chevrolet)