Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Driver Will Start Seventh in 57th Daytona 500 

Date:               Feb. 19, 2015

Event:             Race No. 1 of the Budweiser Duel at Daytona (non-point qualifying races for the 57thDaytona 500)

Series:             NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Location:         Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (2.5-mile oval)

Start/Finish:    15th/4th (Running, completed 60 of 60 laps)

Winners:         Budweiser Duel No. 1 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet) 

                       Budweiser Duel No. 2 – Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Tony Stewart put forth a solid performance in the Budweiser Duel Thursday night at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, finishing fourth in his qualifying race for the 57th Daytona 500 on Sunday. The result earned Stewart the seventh-place starting spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ season-opening race.

Getting that top-five finish didn’t come without a close call, however. When the engine on Casey Mears’ car blew up on lap 17, Stewart’s No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS was right behind the stricken machine. Stewart skated up the track and just grazed the outside retaining wall with the right-front fender. 

The damage was minor. On the ensuing pit stop for four tires and fuel, crew members were able to pull out the fender and send Stewart back onto the 2.5-mile superspeedway. 

Stewart was the only driver to take four tires. Crew chief Chad Johnston made the four-tire call to ensure the right-side tires weren’t rubbing the fenders. All the other teams that came to pit road during the caution took fuel only, which meant Stewart restarted 22nd.

Stewart bided his time until the final 10 laps, whereupon he got aggressive in the draft, rallying his way to fourth. 

“I think we have a pretty good racecar,” Stewart said. “I cost the guys a little extra work on the right side there, but it’s real minimal stuff they can fix. I’m not too worried about it.”

Joining Stewart in the first Budweiser Duel was his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate Kevin Harvick. Harvick drove his No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS to a sixth-place finish. He will start 11th in the Daytona 500.

Forty-nine drivers were split among the two Duels, putting 25 drivers in the first 150-mile race and 24 drivers in the second 150-mile race. 

Fellow SHR drivers Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch were in the second Duel. Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS, finished 10th to earn the 20th starting spot in the Daytona 500. Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished 12th. He’ll start 24th in the Daytona 500. 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the first Budweiser Duel by .165 of a second over Jeff Gordon. Joey Logano, Stewart and Clint Bowyer took spots three through five. The rest of the top-10 consisted of Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Landon Cassill and Cole Whitt.  

Jimmie Johnson won the second Budweiser Duel by .125 of a second over Kyle Busch. Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Martin Truex Jr. took spots three through five. The rest of the top-10 consisted of Ryan Blaney, Reed Sorenson, Mike Wallace, Justin Allgaier and Patrick.  

With the Budweiser Duel now complete, the field for the Daytona 500 is set. On the pole is Gordon, and alongside him is Johnson. By notching the two quickest times during qualifying on Sunday, both drivers were able to lock themselves into the front row for the Daytona 500.  

Failing to qualify for the Daytona 500 were Alex Bowman, Jeb Burton, Ron Hornaday Jr., Justin Marks, Brian Scott and Josh Wise.

The Daytona 500 gets underway at 1 p.m. EST Sunday, Feb. 22, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its prerace show at noon.