Daytona Beach, FL – Kevin Harvick will start third in Sunday's Daytona 500 after winning the first of the two qualifying races on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.
Harvick, who won last Saturday's Sprint Unlimited preseason race at Daytona, held off Greg Biffle at the finish line by just 0.16 seconds for his first twin-qualifier victory in 11 attempts. Biffle also finished second to Harvick in the preseason event. He start fifth in the 500-mile race.
"To win the sponsors race in the Budweiser Duels here, it's hard to align all that and put it all together," Harvick said. "It all worked out for us today. (Crew chief) Gil (Martin) made a great call on pit road and it all worked out.
Juan Pablo Montoya finished third, while Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five.
Sixth through 10th were: Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion, Casey Mears, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano. Earnhardt had to start from the rear of the field after blowing an engine during Wednesday's practice for the qualifiers.
Bobby Labonte, David Gilliland, Joe Nemechek, Michael Waltrip and Scott Speed placed 11th through 15th, respectively. The top-15 finishers in the first qualifier have guaranteed themselves a starting position in the Daytona 500.
Martin Truex Jr. crossed the line in the top-10, but Truex was black-flagged by race officials after the side window came off of his car. His 19th-place finish allowed Speed to grab a spot in the Daytona 500.
"We're in, so that's good," Speed said.
Danica Patrick, who already earned the pole position for the Daytona 500 by winning last Sunday's time trials, finished 17th in the qualifier. Patrick started on the pole for this race but played it safe by dropping to the back of the draft. She ran there for most of the event before moving through the field en route to a 17th-place finish.
"It's not an exciting mission when you've just got to bring it home, but it is for the Daytona 500, so you've got to keep that in mind," Patrick said.
The first qualifier ran incident free until eight laps remaining when a multi- car crash occurred on the backstretch. Denny Hamlin got loose coming out of turn two and bumped into Carl Edwards, who spun around and slammed hard into the outside wall.
"It's a tough deal," Hamlin said. "I had what I think was one of the tightest cars out there. It was handling really well. It just shows you that any kind of bad aero position you put yourself in, your car can be vulnerable."
Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona winner, and Regan Smith were involved in the wreck as well. Edwards has now crashed four times during Speedweeks activities at Daytona.
"This is the worst Speedweeks start I have ever had," Edwards said. "I don't think I have crashed this many race cars in two years."
Bayne had led the first 37 laps before Harvick ran in front for remaining 23 circuits.