Daytona 500: Breaking Down Thursday's Budweiser Duels

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Daytona 500: Breaking Down Thursday's Budweiser Duels
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The Daytona 500 is the Super Bowl of NASCAR, but it’s the races that determine the starting order and lead up to the season opener that have a tendency of stealing the show.

Which duel has the more intriguing lineup?

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The Budweiser Duels are the perfect way to start the new season off correctly by getting the fans ready for the wild action of Daytona International Speedway.

With starting positions for the Daytona 500 on the line, the drivers will try to improve where they open Sunday's race, but also avoid any accidents while learning as much as they can about the Gen-6 cars.

There are so many storylines building to these duels, and the excitement for the two races is through the roof.

All race lineups courtesy of USA Today Sports.

 

Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL.

When: Thursday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m.ET

Watch: SPEED TV

Stream: SPEEDTV.com

 

Duel No. 1

Starting Lineup

1. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 196.434 mph.

2. (21) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 195.976.

3. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 195.925.

4. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 195.771.

5. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 195.767.

6. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 195.584.

7. (42) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 195.508.

8. (13) Casey Mears, Ford, 195.495.

9. (99) Carl Edwards, Ford, 195.24.

10. (56) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 195.207.

11. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 195.084.

12. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 194.961.

13. (29) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 194.742.

14. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 194.729.

15. (38) David Gilliland, Ford, 194.654.

16. (26) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 194.313.

17. (78) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 193.657.

18. (95) Scott Speed, Ford, 193.54.

19. (51) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 193.096.

20. (47) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 192.563.

21. (83) David Reutimann, Toyota, 190.339.

22. (87) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, 190.046.

23. (52) Brian Keselowski, Toyota, 183.876.

 

Driver To Watch: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

It’s clear that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is looking to win a championship this year, and the right chemistry with his team, the right equipment and a calm demeanor have aligned to give Junior his best chance at a title in his career.

Hendrick Motorsports has gone all-in on Earnhardt, and the consistency the veteran showed last season before missing two races with a concussion is a great start. Now Junior must string together a few wins.

Earnhardt won at Michigan in June—halting a four-year winless streak—but it was his 20 top-10s that put him in the chase. Junior must now convert those top-10 finishes into wins.

 

Duel No. 2

Starting Lineup

1. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 196.292 mph.

2. (39) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 195.946.

3. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 195.852.

4. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 195.767.

5. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 195.725.

6. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 195.537.

7. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 195.503.

8. (33) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 195.385.

9. (15) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 195.228.

10. (31) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 195.156.

11. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 195.042.

12. (9) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 194.793.

13. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 194.742.

14. (55) Mark Martin, Toyota, 194.683.

15. (34) David Ragan, Ford, 194.616.

16. (35) Josh Wise, Ford, 194.254.

17. (98) Michael McDowell, Ford, 193.544.

18. (32) Terry Labonte, Ford, 193.515.

19. (7) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, 192.996.

20. (36) J.J. Yeley, Chevrolet, 192.094.

21. (93) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, 190.142.

22. (19) Mike Bliss, Chevrolet, 189.438.

 

Driver To Watch: Matt Kenseth

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Matt Kenseth is one of the most consistent drivers in the Sprint Cup Series, but the transition to Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 20 car is something the veteran driver has never dealt with.

Kenseth is the defending champion of the Daytona 500, and the long-time driver knows that its not where you start, it’s where you finish on Sunday.

It will be interesting to see how hard Kenseth attacks his duel race.

The Gen-6 cars have evened the odds for the drivers in new cars, but the change of team, equipment and crew will have Kenseth starting the Daytona 500 with a distinct disadvantage.

 

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