NASCAR: Harvick, Kyle Busch win Daytona 500 duels
Daytona Beach, Fla. • Perfect so far at Speedweeks, Kevin Harvick has positioned himself as the favorite to win the Daytona 500.
It's the last label he wanted.
"We like to be the lame-duck underdog. That's what we're shooting for," Harvick said.
Harvick won the first Daytona 500 qualifying race on Thursday to make it 2 for 2 at Daytona International Speedway, where he also won an exhibition race last weekend. It positions Harvick, the 2007 Daytona 500 winner, as a top contender in Sunday's season-opening "Great American Race."
Kyle Busch won the second duel to give Toyota its first victory of Speedweeks and snap Chevrolet's dominance. Harvick took the new Chevrolet SS to Victory Lane twice, and Danica Patrick put it on the Daytona 500 pole in time trials.
Busch held off Kasey Kahne, in a Chevrolet, and learned the driver out front is in the strongest position.
"It's hard to pass the leader," said Busch. "Stay out front. When you get out front, you can hold everyone off."
Kahne, who settled for second, said timing will be critical.
"I don't think waiting till the last lap is the ticket anymore," Kahne said.
The starting field for the Daytona 500 is set by the results from the pair of 60-lap qualifiers, but Patrick held onto the pole by running a safe race in the first qualifier. The first woman to win a pole at NASCAR's top level, Patrick earned the top starting spot in time trials last weekend.
She started first in the first qualifier, raced a bit early, then faded back to run a conservative race and ensure she'll start first in the 500.
"I hate coming to the end like that and just lagging back," she said. "That's not fun. But it's also really ignorant to go drive up into the pack and be part of an accident for absolutely no reason. You're really not going to learn much there."
Patrick wound up 17th out of 23 cars.
Dayton 500 lineup
1. Danica Patrick
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Kyle Busch
5. Greg Biffle
6. Kasey Kahne
7. Juan Pablo Montoya
8. Austin Dillon
9. Jimmie Johnson
10. Clint Bowyer