Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano won the two Gander RV Duel races Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway, securing second-row starting positions for Sunday’s 61st annual DAYTONA 500 (2:30 p.m. ET; TV–FOX; Radio–MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio), the season-opening race for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Harvick’s victory gives him a third-place start – inside, second row – in the DAYTONA 500. He led the last 44 laps of the first Gander RV Duel race en route to his eighth victory overall at Daytona International Speedway and his second in Duel competition. Harvick won the DAYTONA 500 in 2007 and the Monster Energy Series championship in 2014.
Experience, talent and a strong No. 4 Busch Beer Car2Can Ford notwithstanding, Harvick also credited a four-leaf clover given to him by his 6-year-old son Keelan as a factor in the win.
“He brought it home and said we should put it in the car for good luck,” Harvick said. “It worked out pretty well … Maybe it’s the lucky charm.”
Two other Ford drivers – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Fastenal Ford) and Paul Menard (No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford) finished second and third.
“Our Ford was fast,” Harvick added, “and I had [Stenhouse and Menard] behind us; we wanted a Ford in [Gatorade] Victory Lane.”
Logano, the reigning Monster Energy Series champion, will start fourth on Sunday in the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford. He charged from fourth to first on the final lap to edge Clint Bowyer (No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Ford). Aric Almirola (No. 10 Smithfield Ford) came home third.
“It’s great to see two Mustangs in [Gatorade] Victory Lane already,” said Logano, the 2015 DAYTONA 500 champion. “Hopefully we can keep that going on Sunday.”
The Gander RV Duel, two 150-mile/60-lap races on the famed 2.5-mile DIS tri-oval, determined starting positions 3-40 for the DAYTONA 500; the first race set the odd-number positions while the second race set even-number positions. The front row was “locked in” on Feb. 10 with DAYTONA 500 Qualifying Presented By Kroger, as William Byron (No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet) and Alex Bowman (No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet) qualified 1-2, leading a Hendrick Motorsports/Chevrolet sweep of the top four spots.
Two DAYTONA 500 starting spots were up for grabs in the Duel, among those drivers not guaranteed a start. (Thirty-six drivers were guaranteed to make the field, due to their teams being part of NASCAR’s charter system.) Parker Kligerman (No. 96 Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota) claimed one of those spots by finishing 12th in the first Duel race. In the second race, Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 Beard Distributing/South Point Chevrolet) finished 15th to get the last open spot.
Also Thursday, there were two NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series practice sessions in advance of Friday night’s (7:30 p.m.) NextEra Energy 250, the truck series’ season opener. Clay Greenfield (No. 68 Rackley Roofing Chevrolet) and Austin Hill (No. 16 CHIBA Toyopet Toyota) led the sessions. Qualifying for the NextEra Energy 250 is Friday at 4:40 p.m., with a single-truck/two-round format.