Tony Stewart wins first Duel as Danica Patrick crashes on final lap

Posted by imelda sovzky on Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tony Stewart wins first Duel as Danica Patrick crashes on final lap

Feb. 23, 2012

By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Tony Stewart won the first of two Gatorade Duel 150-mile qualifying races under caution Thursday at Daytona International Speedway, a half-lap after Danica Patrick took a vicious hit against the inside wall on the backstretch.

The caution flew after Stewart had led the field to the white flag, with race runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr. in hot pursuit. Contact from Aric Almirola's Ford launched Patrick's Chevrolet toward the inside SAFER barrier on the backstretch, and impact with the wall was hard enough to lift all four wheels of Patrick's car off the pavement.

Michael McDowell and Robby Gordon finished sixth and ninth, respectively, to race their way into Sunday's 54th Daytona 500.

Marcos Ambrose ran third after regaining a lost lap under a late caution, followed by Jeff Burton in fourth with pole-sitter Carl Edwards coming home fifth.

Stewart had led 10 straight laps when Michael Waltrip, returning to the track after pitting for a splash of fuel, shot up the banking and into the Turn 2 wall, simultaneously destroying his No. 40 Toyota and his prospects of racing in his 26th straight Daytona 500.

Stewart, the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, will start third in the 500, with Earnhardt set to roll off fifth. Patrick will start from the rear of the field in a backup car.

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