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Daytona 500: Matt Kenseth wins opening Duel

Matt Kenseth wins Daytona 500 Duel one 2014

Matt Kenseth triumphed in the opening Daytona 500 Duel qualifying race, coming out on top in a three-wide finish.

Joe Gibbs Toyota driver Kenseth held command right through the second half of the race, the first of two that will set the field for Sunday's main event.

The only real threat to his lead came in the final charge to the line when Kevin Harvick attempted to slingshot through the inside. He fractionally mistimed his run and fell just 0.2 seconds short, with Kasey Kahne a mere 0.4s further back in third place.

"I knew I had to go when I had the momentum," Harvick said. "I pulled out and thought I'd got in there soon enough, but the timing of the side-draft was off just a little bit."

Stewart-Haas driver Harvick was later put to the back of the field by officials when a track-bar violation was found on his Chevrolet during post-race technical inspections.

Early leader Dale Earnhardt Jr's hopes were dealt a blow when he overcooked his entry to the pits and flat-spotted his front-left tyre.

Despite the mishap, he only stopped for fuel, and the tyre held together sufficiently well for him to cross the line in fifth behind Marcos Ambrose.

All 60 laps passed without incident; a factor that conspired against the handful of cars that gambled on stopping for tyres as well as fuel.

The consequent time loss left the group, led by Tony Stewart, trailing the rest of the pack by around eight seconds after the stops, and although they eventually managed to catch the leaders, they were unable to contend for the win.

BK Racing rookie Alex Bowman secured his place in the 500 by rounding out the top 15 places that are granted an automatic entry.

"When I crossed the line, I wasn't sure where we'd ended up," said the 20-year-old. "It's a huge sigh of relief."

AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live will cover the Daytona 500 as it happens from 5pm UK time on Sunday February 23

Finishing order after 60 laps:

Pos  Driver              Team/Car
 1.  Matt Kenseth        Joe Gibbs Toyota
 2.  Kasey Kahne         Hendrick Chevrolet
 3.  Marcos Ambrose      Petty Ford
 4.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Hendrick Chevrolet
 5.  Josh Wise           Parsons Ford
 6.  Aric Almirola       Petty Ford
 7.  AJ Allmendinger     JTG Daugherty Chevrolet
 8.  David Gilliland     Front Row Ford
 9.  Ryan Newman         Childress Chevrolet
10.  Tony Stewart        Stewart-Haas Chevrolet
11.  Cole Whitt          Swan Toyota
12.  Greg Biffle         Roush Fenway Ford
13.  Danica Patrick      Stewart-Haas Chevrolet
14.  Alex Bowman         BK Toyota
15.  Brian Vickers       Waltrip Toyota
16.  Joey Logano         Penske Ford
17.  Parker Kligerman    Swan Toyota
18.  Austin Dillon       Childress Chevrolet
19.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr  Roush Fenway Ford
20.  Kyle Busch          Joe Gibbs Toyota
21.  Michael McDowell    Leavine Ford
22.  Joe Nemechek        NEMCO Toyota
23.  Reed Sorenson       Baldwin Chevrolet         Retired lap 20
24.  Kevin Harvick       Stewart-Haas Chevrolet    Post-race penalty
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