Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove his favorite car, nicknamed "Amelia," to a dominating victory in the first Can-Am Duel Daytona 500 qualifying race Thursday nigh at Daytona International Speedway.
It was the second consecutive year Earnhardt drove the same Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to victory and his fifth Duel victory, tops among active drivers. Defending Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano finished second in a Team Penske Ford, ahead of the Wood Brothers Racing Ford of Ryan Blaney.
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“We knew it was a real good car. … It’s a great car,” said Earnhardt. “Another win at Daytona for the Earnhardts, adding to our legacy.”
Earnhardt took the lead from pole-sitter and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott on Lap 3 and proceeded to dominate the early part of the race. Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Logano pressured Earnhardt for much of the first half of the race, but Earnhardt led 28 of the first 30 laps.
On Lap 40, Earnhardt pitted and when he did, Denny Hamlin took the lead. Shortly thereafter, Cole Whitt spun to bring out a caution flag.
The race restarted on Lap 48, with Hamlin in control out front.
With less than 10 laps to go, Earnhardt begun pressuring Hamlin for the lead. With six laps to go, Earnhardt got past Hamlin and went into the lead and onto victory. All told, Earnhardt led 43 of 60 laps.
Michael McDowell will advance to the Daytona 500 field, while Whitt and Josh Wise will miss the 500.