Chase Elliott grabs 1st Cup win in Daytona qualifier
Chase Elliott finally has his first victory in NASCAR's top series, and even though it was only an exhibition race, new rules earned Elliott a solid 10 points before the start of the season. Elliott came close so many times to grabbing his first Cup victory during last year as a rookie, but fell short too many times for his liking. His breakthrough win came Thursday night in the first of two qualifying races for the season-opening Daytona 500. Elliott is already the pole-sitter for Sunday's race, but he still used the 150-mile qualifier to test the speed and durability of his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He was able to hold off Ford drivers Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick on the final lap. NASCAR's new format this year including a provision that awards points on a 10-to-1 declining scale to the top-10 finishers in the pair of qualifying races.
Denny Hamlin didn't need a Toyota teammate to grab another win at Daytona International Speedway. Hamlin charged past Dale Earnhardt Jr. with one lap remaining Thursday night to win the second 150-mile qualifying race. Earnhardt actually dominated, but couldn't hold off Hamlin at the end. Hamlin is the defending Daytona 500 winner and has won a Duel qualifying race three times in his career. The twin 150-mile races are used to set the field for Sunday's season-opener. Chase Elliott won the first qualifier. But he had already earned the top starting spot for Sunday's race based on speed. There were two open slots for the Daytona 500 and they were claimed by Corey LaJoie and Canadian driver D.J. Kennington.