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Kenseth wins first Duel qualifier at Daytona

The SportsXchange

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- There were battles all over the track on the last lap of the first of the two Budweiser Duel qualifying races Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway, and Matt Kenseth held off Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne for the win in a three-wide battle.

At the same time, there were four cars battling for the 15th and final transfer spot to earn a spot in the Daytona 500, and rookie Alex Bowman won with battle. Bowman, 20, will make his first start in the Great American Race.

Harvick waited until the fourth turn on the last lap to try to get past Kenseth. For a moment, he had the lead, but Kenseth regained the top spot at the finish line with Kahne diving below the both of them in an attempt to win the race.

Marcos Ambrose finished fourth, and he was followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Josh Wise, Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger, David Gilliland, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Cole Whitt, Greg Biffle, Danica Patrick and Bowman.

The big loser in was rookie Parker Kligerman, who finished 18th. He will have to wait to see what transpires in the second race before knowing whether he will earn a spot in the 500's starting field.

Rookie Austin Dillon grabbed the lead at the start of the first Duel qualifying race as the event quickly turned into a single-file affair.

However, on lap 10, the drivers in the middle of the pack, led by Kenseth, dropped down low and started gaining on the lead pack.

Earnhardt, seeing how fast the lower line was coming, dropped down in front of Kenseth as Kenseth shoved Earnhardt into the lead on lap 16.

A few laps later, Harvick tried to take the lead, but he was unable to get by Earnhardt to the delight of the fans who were on their feet cheering for the sport's most popular driver.

Kenseth decided he was tired of pushing Earnhardt on lap 28 as he dropped down and quickly shot by Earnhardt to take over the top spot as the race hit the halfway mark.

The top five at lap 30 were Kenseth, Biffle, Earnhardt, Kahne and Ambrose.

NOTES: Six drivers had to go to a backup car for the two races after being involved in a multi-car accident in the next-to-last practice session Wednesday. They were Brian Vickers, Joey Logano, Paul Menard, Dave Blaney, Ryan Truex and Parker Kligerman. Kligerman's car ended on its roof during the accident. "It's the first time I ever flipped over," Kligerman said. "I've never done that before in a race car. I assumed that it would be rougher, but was actually really soft. I saw the whole thing go down. I'm up in the fence kind of floating along and thankfully none of the fans got injured." Kligerman's car hit the front grandstand catch fence at almost the same spot where parts of a car flew through the catch fence during the last-lap crash in last February's Nationwide race. More than 25 fans were injured in that accident. No one was hurt Wednesday. Track spokesman Lenny Santiago said Wednesday "the (new) fence performed the way it was designed to. We replaced one cable and some of the mesh fencing that was affected." The repairs took only an hour and did not delay the final practice session held Wednesday evening.

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