Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin Win Can-Am Duels At Daytona International Speedway

by February 24, 2017

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin won their respective Can-Am Duel races at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday night as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series set the field for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Elliott, driver of the No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet, entered Can-Am Duel No. 1 as the pole sitter for the Daytona 500, but that didn’t stop him from racing hard in the pack. In Can-Am Duel No. 1, Elliott led 25 laps on his way to win the 60-lap qualifying event for the Daytona 500. He is the youngest driver to ever win a Can-Am Duel race.

“Oh, man we had such a fast NAPA Chevy tonight,” Elliott said. “I didn’t think anybody was going to help us there at the first part of the race and I had a couple good pushes to get us out front and our spotter did a great job on the roof making sure he was calling the lanes correctly and we were able to get back in front.  Just want to thank our partners and the Hendrick engine shop. They had some steam tonight at it was apparent.”

Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 1 Cessna McDonald’s Chevrolet finished in the second position. Kevin Harvick took home the third position in his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford. Brad Keselowski finished fourth in Thursday night’s race after leading 28 laps. The top-five in , first Can-Am Duel race was rounded out by Matt Kenseth.

The top-10 in the finishing order were also awarded points as a part of the NASCAR rule changes that came over the off-season. The points were awarded for 10th place to receive one point, followed by ninth place receiving two points and so on, with the winner receiving 10 points.

The rest of the top-10 finishers included, by finishing-order, Trevor Bayne, Martin Truex, Jr., Aric Almirola, Joey Logano and Cole Whitt.

There was one accident in the first Can-Am Duel race. Reed Sorenson in the No. 55 car was sent spinning down the front stretch following contact with Corey LaJoie in the No. 83 BK Racing Toyota. Sorenson made hard contact with the inside wall, but he was unharmed in the incident. Sorenson didn’t qualify for the Daytona 500 due to the accident ending his race. As for Corey LaJoie, He’ll be competing in his first-career Daytona 500 come Sunday.

“Man, you come here just idolizing these guys,” LaJoie said. “Jimmie (Johnson), Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. all of these guys. I’m fans of all of these guys and I get to race all of them on Sunday. It’s amazing. The big man has got a plan. I’m excited to get up there and dice it up. They really wanted me to protect the thing today because the backup in a smaller team isn’t as good as the primary so we had to protect that thing at the end of the race. I felt like we could’ve got up there and maybe could’ve got a couple more spots but regardless when it all shakes out on Sunday we’ll see where we land.”

Following the second and final Can-Am Duel race, Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota, was awarded the fourth place starting spot in the Daytona 500 with his win on Thursday. Hamlin made the race-winning pass, when he took the lead away from Dale Earnhardt Jr. with only two laps remaining.

“Yeah, it was great,” Hamlin said. “Great car. Got a great push there for Austin (Dillon). We worked really well together that entire race. I’ll keep that in mind in the 500. It looked like our cars were really good together. I can’t thank this team enough for a great job by Wheels (Mike Wheeler, crew chief). FedEx announced their renewal today so that’s a great sign of a great year hopefully to come.”

Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 15 Mobil 1 Ford and Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford finished second and third, while the top-five was rounded out by AJ Allmendinger and Austin Dillon.

Following the race, Bowyer said, “Man, what a rocket ship. Hats off to all these guys that put all this hard work into these cars for Ford. This is going to be a great year. This is fun. Mike and all the guys on the 14 car, it is just – it has been a long time coming. It is fun to get out here on one of my favorite race tracks and run up front. I want to thank everybody.”

Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth after leading 53 laps throughout the race. Completing the top-10 and being awarded points on the same distribution as Can-Am Duel No. 1 was Danica Patrick in seventh, followed by Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson and Ty Dillon.

After climbing from his car, Earnhardt Jr. said, “I don’t know what I could have done differently to defend that. Once I heard the No. 3 (Austin Dillon) was clear on the outside, I knew they was going to have a big run. Denny (Hamlin) is so smart and he knows what he’s doing out there. He’s one of the better plate racers out there. Any whichway I would have went, he was going to go the other way and probably get by me. I was hoping Austin might push us a little bit since he drives a Chevy; but I don’t know if I would have done it any different than he did, either. Congratulations to Denny.”

The field for the 2017 Daytona 500 has officially been set. Tune-in to FOX on Sunday, February 26 at 2 p.m. ET to see Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr. lead the field to green for the 59th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

UPDATE: Martin Truex Jr., AJ Allmendinger and Chris Buescher failed heights in post-race inspection. The three drivers will start from the rear in Sunday’s race. Truex Jr. and Allmendinger will lose the points that they earned in their Can-Am Duel.

Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images