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Duel win gives Kurt Busch Daytona pole

Kurt Busch gained pole position for the Daytona 500 with victory in the first Gatorade Duel, while Jeff Burton emerged victorious in the second race ahead of Clint Bowyer.
Victory over Regan Smith in the first Gatorade Duel on Thursday gave Kurt Busch the Daytona 500 pole position that a practice wreck had cost Dale Earnhardt Jr. the day before.

Jeff Burton won the second Duel to complete, which means the front two rows of the grid will consist of Busch and Jeff Gordon, and then Smith alongside Burton.

The second Duel also saw impressive runs for Michael Waltrip and Brian Keselowski (older brother of NASCAR regular Brad), giving them starting positions for Sunday's Great American Race.

Duel 1 race report

With Dale Earnhardt Jr. dropping to the back of the field at the start of the first Duel race, as penalty for wrecking his race car in Wednesday's practice session, it was left to Ryan Newman to lead the cars to the green flag for the first of 60 scheduled laps.

Sadly for Newman, his time at the front was to be short-lived and he was turned into a spin by his Stewart-Haas team mate (and boss) Tony Stewart on lap 2 while they were still trying to sort out the rudiments of figuring out how to work together in the new era of two-car drafting on the new paving of Daytona.

Newman's spin brought out the first yellow of the afternoon although he managed to keep it off the wall and rejoined the field after pitting for new tyres. After the restart on lap 6, the Duel then ran caution-free for the next 50 laps, practically the full distance of the event.

Mark Martin hooked up with Tony Stewart for the restart and quickly got the better of Paul Menard who had led the field to the green flag. Th two of them pulled out a 1.7s lead and could be heard radioing each other directly, arranging strategy for the race to come. Both cars seemed to have problems with overheating after NASCAR's on-the-fly changes to limit racing speeds in in temperatures reaching 20C, the highest racing conditions seen at Daytona so far this week. Martin was on the radio expressing his concern about the engine temperature, and Stewart's car was soon steaming water out of the car, so on lap 13 it was Kevin Harvick who moved to the lead with an assist from Matt Kenseth.

Also forming an effective combination were Kurt Busch and Regan Smith, and by working together they were soon in a position where Busch and Harvick were trading the race lead back and forth. As the race passed the 20 lap mark, it was the turn of Juan Montoya and Kasey Kahne to team up and take a turn up front. The lead was exchanged back and forth between this group of drivers - by the end of the race there would be 21 lead changes on the books, a record for the Duels since the event length was raised from 125 to 150 miles in 2005 that would be quickly topped by Duel 2's 22 lead changes.

That put the race into pit stop territory, and the majority of the field came in together on lap 39, with most drivers opting to take fuel only, although Tony Stewart wanted some right side tyres to go with the gas. After the pit stops shook out, Matt Kenseth was in the lead followed by his drafting partner Kevin Harvick and then Kasey Kahne and Juan Montoya followed by Regan Smith and Kurt Busch, who looked to be suffering from a worrying increase in engine temperature.




Related Pictures

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Daytona International Speedway. [Pic Credit image.net]
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 2nd position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined on the front row by Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS who won the Pole position. Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, won the pole position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined by Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS on the front row. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Regan Smith, driver of the #7 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

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