The dust has settled on the 2012 Gatorade Duels at Daytona and the field is set for the 500. Tony Stewart held off a hard charging Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win Duel #1 while Matt Kenseth blew by teammate Greg Biffle to steal the win in Duel #2.
The 4 Golden Tickets:
It looked like a showdown was shaping up between McDowell and Robby Gordon on the final lap of the first Duel until Trevor Bayne pulled over to lock them both in. As the defending Daytona 500 champion moved to the side, Kenny Wallace's dream of making the 500 went up in smoke as he would fail to fill a transfer spot in his Duel.
Micahel Waltrip made a very costly rookie mistake in the first Duel crashing himself after a green flag pit stop. He had two tires on the banking and two on the apron sending him sideways and into the backstretch wall. A rookie mistake by the two time Daytona 500 champion.
Kenny Wallace had fuel pressure problems in the second Duel regulating him to a 21st place finish which wasn't enough to make the race. Dave Blaney and Joe Nemechek took the two transfer spots in Duel #2. Terry Labonte took the past champions provisional.
Vicious Wrecks in Duel #1:
Both Danica Patrick and Juan Pablo Montoya are going to be sore in the morning after a couple of hard licks in the first Duel. Michael McDowell pushed on the left rear of David Gilliland sending him into Montoya and Paul Menard. The front end of the #42 was destroyed but the hit of the day belonged to rookie Danica Patrick.
While Jr. tried to chase down Stewart with half a lap to go, Danica was holding her own around 12th. Almirola got into the door of Patrick sending her head on into the inside wall ripping the front end off the car and sending the #10 off the ground. She was shaken but okay.
The Battle for the Win:
In Duel #1, Carl Edwards got the push from Dale Jr. to take the lead with 2 to go. Dale was able to get past the 99 but he was quickly over taken by the #14 of Tony Stewart. Before Jr. could get the spot back, the caution had come out for Danica's crash giving the win to 3 time Sprint Cup Series champion, Tony Stewart.
The second Duel was much more calmer with not a single yellow. Matt Kenseth pushed his teammate Greg Biffle to the front early but Greg ducked down to the bottom leaving Kenseth hung out to dry. Matt would get his revenge late as he blew by the #16 after a failed block by Biffle with Jimmie Johnson pushing. There was contact between Johnson and Regan Smith with half a lap to go which killed the momentum Regan had costing him a chance at the voctory.
We may want to keep on eye on these cars overheating as we saw a lot of it during the Duels. That could become a major problem in the race on Sunday. Also, Like I said in my last article, these drivers need to be careful and stay away from the left side of the car they are pushing. I think this will be one wild Daytona 500 and watch out for the #98 of Michael McDowell. He was strong in his Duel and he could be the next cinderella story.
A couple fun facts:
-With Michael Waltrip failing to make the 500, this will be the first time since 1972 that a Waltrip will miss the Great American Race
-Matt Kenseth's Duel #2 win was the first Gatorade Duel victory for Roush Fenway Racing
-A owner has never won both Gatorade Duels