Having already qualified on the outside pole for the Daytona 500, Jimmie Johnson could have coasted in Thursday night’s second Budweiser Duel 150 at Daytona International Speedway.
That’s exactly what Johnson did, as the six-time Sprint Cup champion coasted to a green-white-checker victory – going four laps more than the scheduled 60-lap event – and leading a total of 40 laps en route to the win in the non-points race.
“To have the week we’ve had with the front row being secured and the win tonight, it’s been a great start to Speedweeks,” Johnson said. “It was just a fun day. What a race car. This thing is bad-fast. I’m looking forward to Sunday’s race.”
Kyle Busch finished second, followed by Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Reed Sorenson, Mike Wallace, Justin Allgaier and Danica Patrick.
Johnson, who won four races last season, took the lead for good on Lap 41. He joined Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. as winners on the evening, as Junior won the first Duel race.
With three laps remaining in the scheduled 60-lap event, it appeared that almost every driver in the field had qualified for the Daytona 500 and just had to ride out the final laps.
For the second consecutive day, Danica Patrick spun with Denny Hamlin behind her. Also collected were Brian Scott and Bobby Labonte.
Patrick continued and finished 10th to make the 500.
Patrick and Hamlin had words after the race, but that’s as far as it went.
“First and foremost, the GoDaddy car is in the 500 and that’s what we wanted to accomplish today,” Patrick said. “The incident with Denny … he said he needs to run close to move forward, well, you’re turning me, and it happened in practice, too. When he cut across my rear bumper, it pulls the back end around.
“I don’t want to have these issues, but if we’re going to have these issues, then we’re going to have to deal with him.”
Hamlin then gave his point of view to reporters.
“I try to treat everyone as an equal,” Hamlin said. “If you’re in this Cup series, you deserve to be here. I got close to her and her car got loose again. I guess I’ll just have to give more room because once I get close enough to her, her car just gets out of control.”
When all was said and done on the evening, six drivers failed to make Sunday’s Daytona 500: Alex Bowman, Jeb Burton, Justin Marks, Ron Hornaday Jr., Brian Scott and Josh Wise.
Earlier, a four-car wreck nearly two-thirds of the way through the race brought out a red flag.
On Lap 38, it appeared rookie Jeb Burton clipped the right rear of Sam Hornish Jr., sending the latter spinning into the outside retaining wall and ultimately collecting the cars of Austin Dillon and Alex Bowman.
“(Hornish) came up a little bit and it got me really loose, and I got to weaving back and forth and I got back into (Hornish),” Burton said. “These cars are so on the edge and it’s very disappointing.
“I hate that we got tore up, but we’ll keep fighting.”
Ragan went for a single-car spin on Lap 20, bringing out the caution. Ragan suffered minor damage when his car bounced off the inside retaining wall.
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Kyle Busch
3. Carl Edwards
4. Greg Biffle
5. Martin Truex Jr.
6. Ryan Blaney
7. Reed Sorenson
8. Mike Wallace
9. Justin Allgaier
10. Danica Patrick
11. Ryan Newman
12. Kurt Busch
13. David Gilliland
14. David Ragan
15. Austin Dillon
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
17. Brian Scott
18. Denny Hamlin
19. Michael Waltrip
20. Bobby Labonte
21. Sam Hornish Jr.
22. Jeb Burton
23. Alex Bowman
24. Josh Wise
1. Jimmie Johnson … 40 laps
2. Kyle Busch … 21 laps
3. Carl Edwards … 1 lap
4. Martin Truex Jr. … 1 lap
5. Austin Dillon … 1 lap