DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch easily won Thursday’s Budweiser Duels at Daytona International Speedway, which set up an important question heading into the Daytona 500.
Were Harvick and Busch too fast to pass, or was too hard to make a pass with the new generation race car?
Harvick led 53 of the final 54 laps of the first 150-mile qualifying race that sets the lineup for Sunday’s Daytona 500, while Busch was up front for 19 of the final 20 laps.
And neither was challenged in the final five laps.
“It’s hard to pass the leader,” Busch said.
“When you stay out front, you can run pretty good and try to hold everybody off behind you. There wasn’t enough lane-by-lane racing here. You get out front and let track position take care of you.”
The new car, redesigned to bring back manufacturer identity, might look more like a passenger, but based on Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition and Thursday’s heat races, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to make a move up front. In Saturday’s Unlimited, Harvick led 19 of the final 20 laps.
In all three races, the winner was two car lengths ahead at the finish line.
“We need to keep working, keep trying to get the cars better to suck up a little bit more on the front car and then hope for bigger packs come Sunday if we want to pass,” Kasey Kahne said after finishing second to Busch.
“I feel like the only way is if there’s a bigger pack and if there’s more cars together, you know. You can pass some of the other guys as long as you have a car pushing you.”
Results on Thursday not only determined who made the main event, but also their starting order.
Danica Patrick had already won the pole position for the 500, but she quickly was out of contention in the first duel. She finished 17th.