Kevin Harvick wins first Daytona 500 qualifying race

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Kevin Harvick won Thursday night’s first Daytona 500 qualifying race.

He led 44 of 60 laps and beat Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Paul Menard, Matt DiBenedetto and Martin Truex Jr.

“It handled good when we were behind cars,” Harvick said. “Last week taught us that we needed to have track position. They did a good job on pit road and got on and off pit road and then we had a couple Ford Mustangs behind us as well. Ricky and Paul worked with us and we were able to keep the track position and our cars were fast enough together to keep everyone else back there.”

NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kligerman finished 12th and qualified for the Daytona 500 after he placed ahead of Tyler Reddick and Ryan Truex. Truex failed to make the Daytona 500.

The only caution was on Lap 26 when Jimmie Johnson made contact with Kyle Busch on his left rear on the backstretch. Busch spun unharmed onto the apron. Busch finished 18th, one lap down.

The contact was similar to what happened between Johnson and Menard in Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash.

Click here for the results.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ryan Preece bounced back to finish 10th after he was caught speeding on pit road early in the race … Matt DiBenedetto (fourth) earned his best finish in a Daytona qualifying race in four starts … Daytona 500 pole-sitter William Byron led 16 laps but didn’t engage in competitive racing for the final run to save his car for Sunday.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Matt Tifft placed 19th after he was caught speeding twice on pit road … Brad Keselowski placed 20th after he was penalized for pitting outside his box and speeding on pit road while serving his first penalty.

NOTABLE: Kevin Harvick won his second Daytona 500 qualifying race (2013) and has finished in the top three in his last three starts.

QUOTE OF THE RACE No. 1: “He ran into me. Flat out. Watch the television.” – Kyle Busch to reporters on his incident with Jimmie Johnson

QUOTE OF THE RACE NO. 2: “I thought I knew where I was with my right front and I just had it wrong.” – Jimmie Johnson to reporters.