DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano won the Daytona 500 qualifying races in a pair of Ford sweeps that have the new Mustang positioned for a strong showing in “The Great American Race.”
Harvick won the first of the 150-mile qualifying races Thursday night that set the field for NASCAR’s showcase event. Logano used a last-lap pass for the lead in the second one.
Both Harvick and Logano led podium sweeps for Ford, which this year is racing the Mustang in NASCAR’s top series. The qualifying races set the starting lineup for Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500, and Ford drivers locked down the second through fourth rows.
William Byron and Alex Bowman, in Chevrolets for Hendrick Motorsports, swept the top two spots in time trials last week and represent the youngest starting row in Daytona 500 history. Byron is 21 and Bowman is 25.
Harvick’s victory was uneventful beyond Jimmie Johnson’s involvement in his second wreck of Speedweeks.
Logano, meanwhile, was fourth on the final lap when he pulled out of line to try for the win. The reigning NASCAR champion got a solid push from Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney to move to the front and earn his spot alongside Harvick in Sunday’s race.
“Cool to see a couple of Mustangs in victory lane already,” Logano said. “The big one’s still Sunday. It’s a confidence builder for everyone.”
Logano was followed by Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola as Mustang drivers went 1-2-3 in both races. Harvick led Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Paul Menard in the first race for the initial Ford sweep.
The tally represents four different teams, with Stewart-Haas Racing flexing its power to put Harvick, Bowyer and Almirola up front in the Daytona 500. Stenhouse represents Roush Fenway Racing, Logano drives for Roger Penske and Menard for the Wood Brothers.
All have been ordered by Ford leaders to work together and win the Daytona 500.
“Everybody at Ford Performance always makes it well known that they expect us to work together, do everything we can to get a blue oval in victory lane, especially the Mustang now that we’re running it,” Stenhouse said. “We’re getting, I would say, pretty good at it. This is a race that they’re all circling every year for us to win.”
Toyota has so far been shut out of Speedweeks as Johnson won last weekend’s exhibition race in a Hendrick Chevrolet.
The highest-starting Toyota drivers will be Denny Hamlin and Matt DiBenedetto in the fifth row.
Parker Kligerman earned the transfer spot into the 500 during the first qualifying race, while Brendan Gaughan earned the final slot in the 40-car field.
Joey Gase and Ryan Truex both missed qualifying for their first Daytona 500.
Harvick, meanwhile, wrecked in the first practice of the season at Daytona International Speedway. He was collected the next day in a 16-car crash triggered by Jimmie Johnson in the first race of Speedweeks.
It took his third time out for Harvick to finally get it right.
“We tore up so many of these superspeedway cars, it’s just good to finally bring one to victory lane,” Harvick said.
Johnson, meanwhile, ended the event facing criticism for another on-track incident.
The seven-time champion went three-wide 25 laps into the race, causing Kyle Busch to spin and bringing out a caution. Johnson sent an apology through his team, but Busch was unforgiving.
“Tell him I don’t want to hear it. Tell him to use his eyeballs. That’s twice in two races he’s done the same thing,” Busch said, using expletives to note that Johnson also caused a 16-car accident Sunday.
Johnson used an aggressive move in the Sunday exhibition Clash to get past Menard for the lead, and while it gave Johnson his first victory in more than a year, it wiped out most of the field. His incident with Busch was different circumstances, but Johnson was far more contrite than he was in the exhibition victory.
“I just got it wrong, clearly,” Johnson said. “I just misjudged that situation. That was a mistake, for sure.”
Joe Gibbs, team owner for Busch, was bothered by Johnson’s aggression.
“Everybody saw it. Not much I can say about it,” Gibbs said. “Everybody’s still trying to feel everything out but that messed us up right there.”