Thursday, February 18, 2016

Earnhardt, Jr. and Kyle Busch Split Daytona 500 Qualifying Races

Hendrick Motorsports extended its Daytona 500 qualifying race winning streak to three consecutive and then Joe Gibbs Racing ended it. A few top contenders suffered a set back after an accident on the final lap of the night.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won his fifth Daytona 500 qualifying race, putting him in a four-way tie for third all-time with Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon. It is the second consecutive year in which Earnhardt, Jr. has won a Daytona 500 qualifying race. He also won qualifying races in 2003, 2004 and 2008. Last year's Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano finished second with Ryan Blaney finishing third, the top open entry. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five. Earnhardt, Jr., Logano, Blaney, Harvick and Hamlin will start on the inside of rows 2-6 in the Daytona 500.

Daytona 500 pole-sitter Chase Elliott finished sixth in his first Daytona 500 qualifying race. Kasey Kahne finished behind his Hendrick Motorsport teammate in seventh. Three Fords rounded out the top ten with Greg Biffle leading rookie Chris Buescher and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Kahne, Biffle, Buescher and Stenhouse, Jr. will start on the inside of rows 7-10.

Austin Dillon finished ahead of 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne in 11th. Brad Keselowski finished 13th and Michael McDowell finished 14th. Since Blaney was the top finishing open entry, McDowell will qualify for the Daytona 500 based on his qualifying time. Regan Smith rounded out the top fifteen. Dillon, Bayne, Keselowski and Smith will start on the inside of rows 11-14.

David Ragan finished 16th with Josh Wise in 17th. Wise will not race in the Daytona 500. Clint Boywer, Bobby Labonte, Brian Scott, Paul Menard and Cole Whitt rounded out the results in race one. Whitt did not qualify for the Daytona 500 after spinning and bringing out the only caution in the race. Scott spun on the final lap coming to the checkered flag.

Ragan, Bowyer, Labonte, Scott and Menard will start on the inside of rows 15-19. Since McDowell qualified on his time from time trails, he will start on the inside of row 20.

A final lap accident sealed the second race for Kyle Busch. It is his third Daytona 500 qualifying race victory. It is Joe Gibbs Racing's third qualifying race victory in the last six and the team's ninth overall. Jamie McMurray finished second after blocking Jimmie Johnson entering turn one on the final lap, causing contact and causing Johnson to spin and collecting Martin Truex, Jr., A.J. Allmendinger and Matt Kenseth.

Kurt Busch finished third despite suffering significant damage from contact with Johnson's car on the final lap. Carl Edwards and Ty Dillon rounded out the top five in race two. Kyle Busch, McMurray, Kurt Busch, Edwards and Dillon will start on the outside of rows 2-6.

Kyle Larson finished sixth with Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Danica Patrick and Brian Vickers finishing seventh and eighth. Matt DiBenedetto was the top finishing open entry and Michael Annett rounded out the top ten. Landon Cassill finished 11th. Larson, Patrick, Vickers, DiBenedetto, Annett and Cassill will start on the outside of rows 7-12.

David Gilliland finished 12th with the four cars that got caught up in the final lap finishing behind Gilliland. Gilliland did not qualify for the Daytona 500. Johnson, Truex, Jr. and Allmendinger tentatively are schedule to start on rows 13-15 but if any or all three go to backup cars then they will have to start from the rear of the field. Kenseth was scheduled to start on the front row but if he goes to a back up car, he will relinquish that position and start at the back.

Casey Mears ran out of fuel on the penultimate lap and finished a lap down in 17th. Since DiBenedetto raced his way in, Robert Richardson, Jr. qualified for the 58th Daytona 500. Aric Almirola and Michael Waltrip rounded out the top twenty. Both finished a lap down. Reed Sorenson retired four laps from the finished and will not race in the Daytona 500. Ryan Newman had a mechanical failure end his race just prior to halfway.

Mears, Almirola, Waltrip and Newman are scheduled to start on the outside of rows 15-19. Richardson, Jr. will start 40th after getting in on his qualifying time.

The 58th Daytona 500 is scheduled to take place at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.