Johnson grabs first Duel win
|By Diego Mejia||Thursday, February 11th 2010, 21:43 GMT|
Jimmie Johnson has claimed a narrow victory over Kevin Harvick in the first Gatorade Duel qualifying race for the Daytona 500.
The reigning champion stayed out during the final caution of the race while the leaders pitted less than ten laps from the end.
Johnson (Hendrick Chevrolet) was then able to hold on to his position at the front despite Budweiser Shootout winner Harvick mounting a late challenge, with help from his Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer.
Johnson, who was driving his back-up car after damaging his primary one during the final Duel practice on Wednesday, managed to just beat Harvick by 0.006 seconds at the finish line, one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history.
Kyle Busch, Bowyer and Regan Smith completed the top five.
Max Papis, like Johnson, also chose to stay out during the final caution, hoping to get one of the transfer spots for Sunday's race. The Germain Toyota driver almost saw his hopes dashed when he got a bad final restart, but a late mistake from Todd Bodine, who brushed the wall on the final lap, allowed the Italian to earn a place in his first Daytona 500.
Ahead of him Michael McDowell was the surprise of the day, also making his way into the main race for Prism Motorsports while Michael Waltrip, who looked set to make the 500, got spun by Regan Smith causing the final caution. The incident also involved Jeff Gordon, who suffered damage at the front of his car.
Daytona 500 polesitter Mark Martin was the leading force in the early going but was not a top contender in the final laps and appeared to deliberately drop out of the pack at the end to preserve his car, his place at the front of the field already being secure.
Pos Driver Car Laps 1. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 60 2. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 60 3. Kyle Busch Toyota 60 4. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 60 5. Regan Smith Chevrolet 60 6. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 60 7. AJ Allmendinger Ford 60 8. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 60 9. David Ragan Ford 60 10. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 60 11. Greg Biffle Ford 60 12. Denny Hamlin Toyota 60 13. Carl Edwards Ford 60 14. Michael McDowell Toyota 60 15. Max Papis Toyota 60 16. John Andretti Ford 60 17. Todd Bodine Toyota 60 18. Joe Nemechek Toyota 60 19. Travis Kvapil Ford 60 20. Terry Cook Dodge 60 21. Mark Martin Chevrolet 60 22. Bill Elliott Ford 60 23. Robert Richardson Jr Ford 60 24. Reed Sorenson Toyota 60 25. Michael Waltrip Toyota 52 26. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 24 27. Jeff Fuller Toyota 4