Kasey Kahne showed Thursday afternoon why he’s been the trendy pick to win Sunday’s Daytona 500 since cars unloaded last week.
Holding off a last-lap charge from the outside, Kahne crossed the stripe .014 seconds ahead of Tony Stewart to win the second Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying race, and in the process picked up his first career victory at Daytona International Speedway.
“It feels great. You watch a ton of races growing up as a kid. That’s all I did was watch racing or go to races, and I can remember every Daytona 500,” said Kahne who will start fourth in Sunday’s Great American Race. “Our car owner, Richard Petty, is a big part of that history and it feels good to be in victory lane here and win this early in the year.”
Kahne led the field to the white flag, but Stewart got a push from Juan Pablo Montoya on the backstretch that allowed him to pull alongside the eventual winner. The two ran door-to-door for the final half lap before Kahne nipped Stewart just feet before the two took the checkered flag.
Mike Bliss and Scott Speed took the race’s two transfer positions. By Speed racing his way into the field, Michael Waltrip – who crashed out of the first Duel – earned the 43rd and final spot in the Daytona 500.
“I figured when I woke up this morning I’d be crying before the day was over. I just didn’t know if it would be because I was happy or because I was sad,” Waltrip said upon learning he made what could possibly be his final Daytona 500. “And then I damn sure didn’t know it would be both within an hour of each other.”