Hamlin, who received a pit penalty during a competition caution, led four laps all night on the way to the his third-career win in a Daytona 500 qualifying race.
“Got a great push there from Austin, we worked well together the entire race,” Hamlin told Fox Sports 1. “I’ll keep that in mind for the 500. Looked like our cars were really good together. Can’t thank this team enough.”
Hamlin bounced back after he had to restart from the rear following a penalty for driving through too many pit boxes as he left his own pit stall.
Hamlin took the win from Earnhardt, who led 53 of the race’s 60 laps. Entering Turn 3 with two laps left, Earnhardt went low as the push from Dillon gave Hamlin enough momentum to get around on the high side.
“I don’t know what I could have done differently to defend that,” Earnhardt told FS1. “As soon as I heard (Dillon) was clear on the outside, I knew they were going to have a big run. Denny is so smart, he knows what he’s doing out there. One of the better plate racers out there.”
Earnhardt was making his first start in a race since July after recovering from a concussion that forced him to miss the final 18 races of 2016.
Canadian driver DJ Kennington raced his way into the Daytona 500, which will be his second NASCAR Cup Series start.
WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Bowyer started and finished second in his first race action with Stewart-Haas Racing … Allmendinger finished fourth for his best result in 10 Daytona 500 qualifying races … Danica Patrick finished seventh, tying her best qualifying race result from last year.
WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Jimmie Johnson was involved in an accident on Lap 48 that caused minor damage to him, Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones. It was Johnson’s third accident of Speedweeks after two in the Advance Auto Parts Clash on Sunday. He finished 13th while Blaney finished 20th and Jones came home 19th in his first qualifying race.
NOTABLE: Hamlin’s win gives him three victories in the Daytona 500 qualifying races … Bowyer matched his best result in a qualifying race (2011).
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “It’s the most amazing feeling in the world. … This is one of the biggest moments of my life. All the guys at work that pitch in so I can come do this, thank you everybody, I really appreciate it.” – DJ Kennington after racing his way into the Daytona 500.
WHAT’S NEXT: The 59th Daytona 500 at 2 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox.