Matt Kenseth managed to hold off a charging Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne to take victory in the opening Daytona 500 Budweiser Duel.
Kenseth led the most laps of the race and looked relatively comfortable leading the field, but a last lap run from Harvick looked like it could cause the #20 some issues. Kenseth held off, however, creating an incredibly close finish as Harvick and Kahne made it three-wide across the line.
“Kevin is one of the best,” said Kenseth. “You want him to stay behind you because you trust him to do the right thing, but you also don’t because they are so smart. I saw him laying back to get a run and he made the perfect move, I was just fortunate enough to get to his right rear early enough to get a big enough run to beat him to the finish line.”
“It makes up a little bit for the rest of the week,” he added, putting two huge practice wrecks behind him as he visited Victory Lane. “I haven’t been very coordinated. I felt bad walking into the garage every day, honestly.
Harvick, however, was subsequently disqualified from the race after failing a post-race inspection. As a result, his #4 car will now have to start from 38th on the grid for the Daytona 500, qualifying on Ryan Newman‘s owner points from 2013.
Kenseth led 31 of the 60 lap race, which ran without caution, having taken the lead from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on lap 16, before regaining it on lap 30 through a round of green-flag pitstops. Earnhardt, Jr. had previously inherited the lead from Daytona 500 pole-sitter, Austin Dillon, who led the opening 14 laps of the Duel, before Earnhardt, Jr., Kenseth and Harvick took turns at the front of the pack.
“I think we’ve all done a pretty good job at tearing a few things up along the way so far,” said Harvick, discussing the tame nature of the Duel compared to practice. “I think everybody was a little bit conservative. I think obviously there was only 18 cars in the Unlimited and we tore the whole field up. I think everybody wanted to do what they had to do to get the best finish that they could. Obviously those of us running up front tried to win the race. It just didn’t time out exactly perfect.”
Behind the leading trio at the line were the cars of Marcos Ambrose, Earnhardt, Jr., Josh Wise, Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger, David Gilliland and Newman.