DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Hendrick Motorsports swept the Daytona 500 qualifying races, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson winning.
Danica Patrick needed a push from teammate Kurt Busch for the final two laps of Thursday night's second 150-mile Budweiser Duel to make the race.
Needing to race her way into Sunday's season opener, Patrick wrecked in an incident with Denny Hamlin late in the race. Contact between the two in Wednesday's practice had sent Patrick to a backup car, and her Stewart-Haas Racing team had worked feverishly to repair her Chevrolet for the final laps of the duel.
Busch pushed her to a 10th-place finish, good enough to make the Daytona 500.
She then had a heated exchange with Hamlin after the race, and Tony Stewart, her boss, came down to jaw at Hamlin.
Earnhardt won the first race, setting up a 1-2-3 start for Hendrick Motorsports in Sunday's race.
Jeff Gordon and Johnson swept the front row Sunday in the first round of qualifying. Then Earnhardt, the defending Daytona 500 winner, won the first 150-mile Budweiser Duel to take the third front-row starting spot.
"We've had a great car all week," Earnhardt said. "I'm so glad to get through the duel in one piece because I know how good this car is. We're going to have a fun day on Sunday."
Gordon, the four-time NASCAR champion, finished second in the first duel and was followed by Joey Logano, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer.
Bowyer wrecked during the first round of qualifying and had to race his way in to the Daytona 500.
"If it wasn't for adversity, I wouldn't have any feeling in life," Bowyer said. "It feels good to finally get a good run."
For Gordon, it kept his car clean and sent him into his final Daytona 500 in position to lead the field to the green flag. Gordon, a three-time Daytona 500 winner, will retire at the end of the season.
He said he's so far approached this week as business as usual with no nostalgia.
"Right now, it's mainly routine," Gordon said. "On Sunday, when I get up that morning, think about that day, it will come into my mind. Other than that, everything has been pretty much routine."