LaJoie, Kennington race way into Daytona 500

By Dominic Aragon
February 24, 2017

While Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin celebrated victories in the Can-Am Duel races Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway, two drivers sealed the remaining two open positions for the Daytona 500.
Corey LaJoie and D.J. Kennington raced their way into the Daytona 500 in their respective duel races and each will make their first start in The Great American Race.

With Brendan Gaughan guaranteed a starting spot in the Daytona 500 via his qualifying lap Sunday, LaJoie and Sorenson were the two drivers racing for the final open position available in Duel No. 1.

Sorenson, driving the No. 55 for Premium Motorsports, started 19th and LaJoie started 21st, last.

During pit stops on lap 27 under the competition caution, the race’s first yellow flag period, Sorenson did not pit for tires, restarting eighth and LaJoie restarted 16th.

Sorenson, who held the transfer spot for most of the race, had contact with LaJoie with 12 laps to go and a crashed into an infield retaining wall, taking the driver out of the race.

“I think we were in a good position to make this race,” Sorenson said to FOX Sports, adding, “I guess [LaJoie] felt like he did what he had to do to make the race, so I hope he’s proud of that part of it.”

LaJoie ultimately finished 18th in the No. 83 BK Racing Toyota, securing his spot in Sunday’s race.

The Daytona 500 will be LaJoie’s third career start in the series and first in The Great American Race.

“Every kid in a race car dreams of racing in a Daytona 500 and I get to do that on Sunday,” LaJoie said.

The 25-year-old driver gave his take on the incident with Sorenson.

“I really do feel bad about Reed,” he said. “I just tried to fill a hole and it was getting down to it and I probably did have position on him, but man, when I’m trying to get into the Daytona 500—if my mom was in that spot, I’d probably wreck her too. I’m racing on Sunday.”

1) No. 24 Chase Elliott
2) No. 1 Jamie McMurray
3) No. 4 Kevin Harvick
4) No. 2 Brad Keselowski
5) No. 20 Matt Kenseth
6) No. 6 Trevor Bayne
7) No. 78 Martin Truex Jr.
8) No. 43 Aric Almirola
9) No. 22 Joey Logano
10) No. 72 Cole Whitt
11) No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
12) No. 19 Daniel Suarez
13) No. 18 Kyle Busch
14) No. 32 Matt DiBenedetto
15) No. 37 Chris Buescher
16) No. 34 Landon Cassill
17) No. 23 Joey Gase
18) No. 83 Corey LaJoie
19) No. 75 Brendan Gaughan
20) No. 27 Paul Menard (-1 LAP)
21) No. 55 Reed Sorenson (OUT)

Elliott Sadler was the only driver guaranteed a spot in the Daytona 500 among the drivers open team drivers in Duel No. 2 via his qualifying time Sunday. Either D.J. Kennington or Timmy Hill could race their way in by finishing ahead of Sadler and the other driver.

Sadler with Tommy Baldwin Racing started 18th, Kennington in the No. 96 for Gaunt Brothers Racing started 19th and Hill in the No. 51 for Rick Ware Racing started 21st (last).

After the lap 26 competition caution and the cycle of pit stops, Kennington was 16th, Sadler 18th and Hill 21st, one lap down.

Hill ultimately retired from the race with engine troubles, completing 29 laps.

If Sadler finished ahead of Kennington, he would have raced his way into the Daytona 500 via the Duel and Sorenson would have earned his spot via his qualifying run on Sunday.

Sadler passed Kennington before the white flag, but Kennington edged Sadler at the checkered flag by .39 seconds, securing Kennington’s spot in the Daytona 500.

Starting 30th Sunday, Kennington will make his second career start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and first in the Daytona 500.

“[It’s the] most amazing feeling in the world,” Kennington said to FOX Sports post-race.

“...This is one of the biggest moments of my life, and all the guys that work, everybody that pitches in so I could come and do this, thanks everybody, I appreciate it.”

1) No. 11 Denny Hamlin
2) No. 14 Clint Bowyer
3) No. 41 Kurt Busch
4) No. 47 A.J. Allmendinger
5) No. 3 Austin Dillon
6) No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
7) No. 10 Danica Patrick
8) No. 31 Ryan Newman
9) No. 42 Kyle Larson
10) No. 13 Ty Dillon
11) No. 38 David Ragan
12) No. 95 Michael McDowell
13) No. 48 Jimmie Johnson
14) No. 5 Kasey Kahne
15) No. 96 D.J. Kennington
16) No. 7 Elliott Sadler
17) No. 15 Michael Waltrip
18) No. 33 Jeffrey Earnhardt
19) No. 77 Erik Jones (-1 LAP)
20) No. 21 Ryan Blaney (-5 LAPS)
Who will finish higher in the Daytona 500?
No. 83 Corey LaJoie
No. 96 D.J. Kennington
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