When the green flag dropped in the Gatorade Duels, the two-car tan-drums reappeared and in the end, Kurt Busch and Jeff Burton won each of the Gatorade Duels at Daytona International Speedway.
Gatorade Duel Race No. 1
This race ran into trouble early as on lap two, Ryan Newman got spun by his boss Tony Stewart, as result of wrongful bumping in the two-car tan-drum. Both cars were okay as they continued on. Most of the race ran clean with two-car tan-drum fighting side-by-side till four to go when Michael McDowell went up in smoke. On the caution, J.J. Yeley got the lucky dog. As of this caution, Bill Elliott and Kevin Conway would transfer via position - but they weren't done yet.
On the final green-white-checkered, Kasey Kahne matched up with partner Tony Stewart, but Regan Smith gave Busch the needed push and pushed him to a second lead on the field. While everybody battled for third, Smith tried to make the move, but didn't get by as Busch took the win.
"From all the guys at the shop to finding drafting partners out there—you're learning every lap so I got to thank everybody," Busch said. "It's amazing what partnerships can do on the race track and when two guys can think the same without saying a word, good things are going to happen for those two guys."
The Finishing Order was Busch, Smith, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Kahne, Montoya, Allmendinger, Mark Martin, Paul Menard, Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brian Vickers, Elliott, Bobby Labonte, Yeley, Kevin Conway, Joe Nemechek, Dave Blaney, Marcos Ambrose, Andy Lally, Michael McDowell and David Gilliland.
With their finishing results, Bill Elliott and J.J Yeley were able to lock themselves into the Daytona 500. Meanwhile, with Elliott getting in via the Duel, Michael Waltrip was able to lock himself in based upon speed.
"Oh this is huge for the sponsors—it wasn't as good as we wanted when we got down here," Yeley said. "I wouldn't be here where I am now if it wasn't for Marcos Ambrose and his sponsors. We just got the engine a couple weeks ago so its been a mad thrash to get everything together. To put it in the biggest race of the year, its pretty awesome."
"The race track is unbelievable," Elliott said. "It's so smooth. It's fun. It's a heck of a race. Guys, it don't compare to anything. I've never experienced anything like you to do to make this work. It's the craziest things I've ever seen. It's like a bunch of kids playing leapfrog."
With Earnhardt Jr. having to start at the back of the field, Busch will be the pole sitter for the Daytona 500 when the field goes green, granted he doesn't wreck between now and Sunday in practice.
"We got to get a little more speed," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I felt like we had a good opportunity there and when the pitting started happening, I found myself being the odd-partner. I was trying to find a partner till they called me to pit road and I lost a lot of time there. We learned something there. We need to find a little more speed—guys are able to run longer than we are able to so we got to find something with the cooling."
Gatorade Duel No. 2
In the second Duel, more action was seen with more wrecks and drama.
It started on lap three as Casey Mears, who was trying to qualify for the 500, blew the motor.
"We just didn't even get a shot so I don't," Mears said. "I know we're going to do good in some of the other races but the fact that we couldn't run in practice or run today shows what we've got to do."
Following that, on lap 17, Joey Logano wrecks via contact in a pack that was caused with the closing rates.
Then with 21 to go, Brad Keselowski spins in turn three after Todd Bodine bump-drafts Keselowski into the corner. That put Keselowski in the back of the field, but it worked out to help paint a cinderella story. As Keselowski came through the field, he hooked up with his brother Brian Keselowski and brought him with him.
With 12 to go, another caution came out as Denny Hamlin got spun by Kyle Busch as he slows up to not hit Greg Biffle. Currently in the transfer positions was Bodine and Brian Keselowski. Then another twist presented itself to those who would transfer as with six to go, Bodine, David Reuitmman, and Steve Wallace wrecked. At this point, Clint Bowyer was the leader with Jeff Burton second, while Brian Keselowski and Michael Waltrip looked to transfer through.
On the restart with four to go, Bowyer got behind Burton and pushed him to the win as Bowyer tried to pass by Burton too late.
"Its a shame two cars can't fit in here as its all about who you're working with and how that goes," Burton said.
"I don't know if they'll be another rule change," Bowyer said. "We're trying to make this the best Daytona 500 ever and certainly we're spending enough money on that."
Coming down to the line, the drama picked up again as Trevor Bayne, David Ragan and Jeff Gordon all wrecked. Both Bayne and Ragan are going to a back-up, while Gordon's team plans on fixing the car to keep their outside pole position.
Qualifying into the Daytona 500 was Brian Keselowski and Michael Waltrip and with Waltrip qualifying through, Dave Blaney got to get in via his speed in qualifying.
"We wouldn't be here with him and he got back there with me and he was jacking me up, but that is part of this 2-car draft," Brian Keselowski said of his brother Brad working with him.
"To race in my 25th straight Daytona 500 is an honor—I don't take for guaranteed this," Waltrip said. "I like having the 15 out there and its amazing to see some people smiling, some people crying."
The finishing order was Burton, Bowyer, Waltrip, Busch, Brian Keselowski, McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Reuitmann, Jeff Gordon, David Gilliland, Bodine, Greg Biffle, Robert Richardson Jr., Terry Labonte, Bayne, Bodine, Wallace, Logano and Mears.
Failing to qualify for the Daytona 500 were Casey Mears, Todd Bodine, Derrike Cope, Michael McDowell and Kevin Conway.