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Duel wins for Stewart and Kenseth

Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth won the two Gatorade Duels setting the starting order for the Daytona 500, but there was a big hit waiting for Danica Patrick.
Tony Stewart made sure there was no repeat of Saturday's last corner defeat in the Shootout, and duly claimed victory in the first of Thursday afternoon's Gatorade Duels, the 60-lap heats that determine the starting grid for this weekend's Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup season opener.

He was helped by the race coming to a slightly premature end when there was a heavy crash just after the white flag had come out. The crash started when Aric Almirola reacted to Jamie McMurray getting slightly unstable: Almirola struggled to hold the car and knocked into Danica Patrick's #10 car running underneath and slightly behind him. Patrick's car was sent shooting through the infield apron and into a high speed head long crash with the inside wall that totally wrecked the car.

Patrick herself was unhurt and walked away from the wreck, although she did appear understandably stunned by the force of the impact. "You just kind of brace yourself and in these situations be glad that I'm a small driver and that I've got room and just kind of hug it in and let her rip," she told reporters after being checked out and cleared by the medical centre.

As Patrick was already pre-qualified for the race due to owners points acquired in a deal with Tommy Baldwin Racing, the biggest blow for Patrick was that her car is a write-off and she'll have to take to a back-up on Sunday. "I'm really just bummed out that we didn't finish the last two corners," she told reporters afterwards.

Her crew chief Greg Zipadelli conceded that "It just sucks ... It puts us behind," but there was no question in Zipadelli's mind that Patrick had been completely blameless for the accident.

"She did what she was supposed to do," he said. "She wasn't doing anything wrong riding around the bottom ... I never saw her car move. But I saw a lot of grown men who couldn't keep their car under control. So maybe they need to work on that."

Patrick's accident had been the third of that opening Duel, with the first coming on lap 9 when Michael McDowell got into the back of David Gilliland and spun the #38 into the outside wall, also involving Juan Montoya and Paul Menard in the wreck. McDowell was able to continue and ended up finishing in sixth place, securing himself a place on the Daytona 500 starting grid alongside Robby Gordon, his fellow qualifier from the first Duel; but Gilliland, Montoya and Menard will all have to take to their back-up cars for Sunday's race, and like Patrick will now be sent to the back of the field for the green flag.

The second accident of the day involved two-time former Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip, who spun on the transition from apron to banked race track coming out from a late splash and dash on lap 52. His wreck put him out of the Daytona 500, and also meant that the race did not end as expected as a fuel conservation affair but instead allowed everyone to pit for gas who needed to, while Tony Stewart stayed out and made the most of it at the restart. The late caution also closed up the pack so that some of those cars that had stayed toward the back - like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Carl Edwards - now had an opportunity to make a bid for the front.

Up to then, Denny Hamlin had led much of the race along with Marcos Ambrose, but their gamble of staying out of the pits at the first caution on lap nine cost them dear later on, and while Ambrose managed to work his way back up to third place by the time Patrick wrecked, Hamlin was not so fortunate and ended up a lap down.




Related Pictures

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 Matt Kenseth crosses the finish line to win the second Gatorade Duel at Daytona International Speedway. [Picture Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR]
 Matt Kenseth celebrates winning his first ever Gatorade Duel at Daytona International Speedway. [Picture Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Tony Stewart picked up where he left off last year, winning the first Gatorade Duel at Daytona International Speedway. [Picture Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR]
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)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win 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)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning 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)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet, wins the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates winning the series championship during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, and Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #54 ToyotaCare Toyota, burn out as Crafton celebrates winning the series championship and Wallace celebrates winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship in Victory Lane with the trophy, NASCAR President Mike Helton and sportscaster Krista Voda during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the series championship and placing ninth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jeld-Wen/Menards Toyota, and his daughter Elladee take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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