Earnhardt shows he’s the Daytona 500 favorite as second Duel ends in wild finish

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Can-Am Duels at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 18: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Can-Am Duels at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. showed the rest of the Daytona 500 field that he will be the driver to beat Sunday after he scored a dominating win in the first of the two Can-Am Duel qualifying races Thursday.  Kyle Busch won the second Duel that ended with a wild finish and mangled metal.

Earnhardt started the first Duel second behind Daytona 500 pole winner and rookie Chase Elliott but it took him only three laps to make his presence known as he took the lead from his young teammate. The field soon strung out single file with only Denny Hamlin the only real challenge to Earnhardt. Hamlin took the lead after the races only caution for a solo spin by Cole Whitt on lap 42.  Hamlin held the lead until lap 55 of the 60, when Earnhardt made  diving move to take the lead and hold on for the win. It was the 17th career Daytona win for Earnhardt and his fifth Duel win.

Joey Logano was second, rookie Ryan Blaney was an impressive third, with Kevin Harvick fourth and Hamlin fifth.

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