Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin Take Checkered Flags Can-Am Duel Races At Daytona International Speedway
By Space Coast Daily // February 24, 2017
ABOVE VIDEO: Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin won the Can-Am Duel races on Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway, as the starting grid for Sunday’s 59th annual DAYTONA 500 was established by the two 150-mile qualifying events.
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin won the Can-Am Duel races on Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway, as the starting grid for Sunday’s 59th annual DAYTONA 500 was established by the two 150-mile qualifying events.
For the first time since 1971, drivers in the Can-Am Duel earned Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship points for their efforts – the top-10 finishers in each race, to be exact. Drivers responded to that new situation by staging all-out battles in both 60-lappers. There was no indication of drivers playing it safe and looking ahead to the DAYTONA 500.
That flat-out mindset was personified by Elliott in the No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. He started on the pole of the first Can-Am Duel race after posting the fastest speed last Sunday during DAYTONA 500 Qualifying Presented By Kroger – which also locked him into the pole position for the DAYTONA 500. Elliott led a total of 25 laps including the last 24 in dominating style.
“It was a great way to start the season,” Elliott said.
“I know this is just a Duel win and obviously I wish this was Sunday … but it still means a lot to me and it means a lot to our team.
“We had some big steam under the hood which was a huge factor in keeping us out front. I’m glad we were able to race and stay aggressive and battle those guys. Hopefully we can dial it in a little better on Sunday and give it another shot.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet, had the pole for the second Can-Am Duel race after qualifying second behind Elliott last Sunday – which locked him into the DAYTONA 500 outside pole. Earnhardt led 53 of 60 laps but was passed by Hamlin in Turn 3 on Lap 59 and came home sixth. Hamlin got invaluable drafting help from a trailing Austin Dillon, using the momentum to zip by Earnhardt on the outside.
Hamlin – the defending DAYTONA 500 champion – will start the No. 11 FedEx Toyota behind Earnhardt on Sunday in the fourth position, thanks to his Can-Am Duel victory.
“We had a great car and we got a great push from Austin,” Hamlin said. “[Earnhardt] thought I was going one way and I went the other. I’m not sure what this means or what this says [about our DAYTONA 500 chances] but overall, pretty happy with the result.”
Two drivers from each Can-Am Duel race – part of a group of six “Open” entries who came to Speedweeks without guaranteed spots in the DAYTONA 500 field – “raced their way” into the big show via their Duel race result. (Thirty-six drivers were guaranteed spots via their status as NASCAR “Charter” entries.) From the first Can-Am Duel race, it was Corey LaJoie; from the second race, it was DJ Kennington.
Friday night at 7:30, the NextEra Energy Resources 250 will open the season for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Qualifying for the event will be at 4:30 p.m. There was one practice session for the trucks on Thursday, with rookie Chase Briscoe posting the fastest lap – 192.980 mph – in the No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford – owned by Brad Keselowski Racing.
Also Friday, two practice sessions will be held for both the DAYTONA 500 and the 59th annual PowerShares QQQ 300, Saturday’s season-opening race for the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
Tickets for the 59th annual DAYTONA 500 and other Speedweeks events can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
ABOVE VIDEO: Thank you, 7 time NASCAR Cup Series champion – Jimmie Johnson for supporting Julie Spurlock in her battle against cancer. Jimmie has won 80 races (Daytona 500 twice), has 219 Top 5 finishes and 330 top 10 finishes. He’s tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt with most Cup Series championships. Thanks, Jimmie!