Kenseth, Hamlin win Budweiser Duels

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Denny Hamlin is still undefeated in 2014, winning the second Daytona 500 qualifying race Thursday night as he coolly pulled away from the field as chaos erupted behind him.

Now he will attempt to become the first driver in history to sweep Speedweeks when he tries to win Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500. Hamlin also won last Saturday night's exhibition Sprint Unlimited.

''Once that snowball starts to roll, it's hard to stop it, and right now we're just on a heck of a run,'' said Hamlin, who closed last year with a win in the season finale.

Matt Kenseth, Hamlin's teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, won the first Budweiser Duel 150 on Thursday night.

The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas were strong last season and contenders to win, but came up empty when Kenseth's engine failed while leading. Minutes later, teammate Kyle Busch's engine failed. Toyota is still looking for its first win in the ''Great American Race.''

''The last Daytona was so far away, we've moved well beyond that,'' said Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson. ''We're certainly not sweating the issues we had last year.''

JGR and the manufacturer are in great shape headed into Sunday following the strong performance Thursday in the two races, the first of which was redemption for Kenseth, who was involved in two wrecks earlier in Speedweeks.

So he felt vindicated when he nipped Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne at the finish line to win the first race.

''It makes up a little bit for the rest of the week - the rest of the week I haven't been very coordinated,'' Kenseth said. ''I was kind of embarrassed walking in the garage. You feel like people are kind of looking at you cross-eyed.''

While the first race was uneventful, the second race had a wild ending when defending Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson ran out of gas as the field raced toward the checkered flag. It caused Jamie McMurray to run into the back of Johnson, turning Johnson sideways and both cars into the wall.

The entire pack began to spin around them, and Clint Bowyer flipped upside down. Two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip slid through the grass and hit hard into the inside retaining wall.

''I knew he was saving gas coming to the green. It's too bad to tear cars up like that,'' Bowyer said. ''That was one of the wildest flips I've ever had. I think we would have been just fine if I hadn't hit the grass right here.''

Johnson was apologetic.

Both JGR drivers were dominant.

Kenseth led two times for 31 of the 60 laps, but Harvick pulled out on the final lap to make his bid for the victory. Then Kahne pulled out of line to make it three-wide.

But Kenseth stayed on the gas of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on the top of the track and was the first car across the finish line in what fans hope was a preview of Sunday's season-opening race.

''We just had a three-wide finish for the win,'' Harvick said. ''I guess if you guys don't like that, we'll have to try something different.''

After the race, Harvick was informed while sitting in the Fox Sports 1 studio as an analyst for the second race that his Chevrolet, sponsored by Budweiser, had failed post-race inspection for the first Budweiser Duel.

''Yeah, well, well, that's no good,'' said Harvick, who will have to start at the back of the Daytona 500 field as penalty. He'll be joining Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick, who also have to fall to the back for making unapproved engine changes.

Cole Whitt and Alex Bowman, both rookies, raced their way into the 43-driver field via the available transfer spots.

''It's a huge sigh of relief,'' said Bowman, who drove a Toyota for BK Racing. ''It's huge for me and my family. Shoot, we're in the Daytona 500. It's something I watched every year as a kid.''

Whitt battled back in a car that was damaged in Wednesday's practice and had to be rebuilt after teammate Parker Kligerman also wrecked. Kligerman needed a backup car, and Swan Racing only had one, so the team was forced to rebuild Whitt's Toyota.

Kligerman was in the same 150-mile qualifying race as Whitt, but finished 18th and didn't transfer into the Daytona 500. He had to wait for the second Budweiser 150 Mile to see if he made the field.

It was a wild turn of events for Kligerman, who was turned upside down for the first time in his career in Wednesday's wreck, then landed a sponsor for the Daytona 500 in Lending Tree on Thursday morning, then had to sweat out his spot in the ''Great American Race.''

Kligerman's backup car wasn't as good as his primary, and he struggled on the final lap, when he dropped from ninth to 18th. He found out after the second race he made it into the 500.

Josh Wise, driving for underfunded Phil Parsons Racing, finished sixth in the first race to make the Daytona 500.

''It's a big burden lifted off, for sure. Sleep has been light this week,'' Wise said.

Daytona 500 starting lineup:

Pos No. Driver Team
1 3 Austin Dillon # DOW Chevrolet
2 78 Martin Truex. Jr. Furniture Row Chevrolet
3 20 Matt Kenseth Dollar General Toyota
4 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota
5 5 Kasey Kahne Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
6 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
7 9 Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford
8 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet
9 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard Chevrolet
10 27 Paul Menard Peak/Menards Chevrolet
11 98 Josh Wise Curb Records Ford
12 33 Brian Scott (i) Whitetail Chevrolet
13 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford
14 21 Trevor Bayne (i) Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford
15 47 AJ Allmendinger Kroger/USO Chevrolet
16 42 Kyle Larson # Target Chevrolet
17 38 David Gilliland Love's Travel Stops Ford
18 40 Landon Cassill (i) Hillman Racing Chevrolet
19 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet
20 15 Clint Bowyer 5-hour Energy Toyota
21 14 Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
22 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet
23 26 Cole Whitt # Speed Stick Gear Toyota
24 32 Terry Labonte C&J Energy Services Ford
25 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford
26 52 Bobby Labonte Phoenix Construction Chevrolet
27 10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy Chevrolet
28 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet
29 23 Alex Bowman # Dr. Pepper Toyota
30 99 Carl Edwards Fastenal Ford
31 55 Brian Vickers Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
32 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet
33 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Ford
34 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Nationwide Insurance Ford
35 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford
36 7 Michael Annett # Pilot/Flying J Travel Centers Chevrolet
37 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota
38 4 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
39 36 Reed Sorenson Golden Corral Chevrolet
40 51 Justin Allgaier # Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet
41 30 Parker Kligerman # Swan Energy Toyota
42 66 Michael Waltrip BlueDEF/AAA Toyota
43 34 David Ragan CSX - Play It Safe Ford

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