DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Thoughts on the first of the twin qualifying races at Daytona International Speedway:
What it means -- Winner Matt Kenseth is a threat to win his third Daytona 500 if he can avoid the pitfalls he had in the Sprint Unlimited and practice. It means that racing with the new package will be better than it was a year ago when there was a lot of single-file racing. Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne were able to make this finish three-wide. The difference between first and third was a mere 0.063 seconds.
Stock watch -- Rookie Austin Dillon has handled his move into the Sprint Cup Series well so far, winning the pole and leading early in this race. But he's still got a ways to go to get the famed No. 3 in Victory Lane, finishing 19th. Or maybe he was just playing it safe, knowing he already had the pole and there was no need to take chances.
Stock watch II -- Rookie Alex Bowman raced his way into his first Daytona 500, finishing 15th. Cinderella stories such as this is what makes this qualifying format fun.
Key move -- Kenseth took fuel only when he pitted with 24 laps to go, putting him in the lead when pit stops cycled around. He didn't give it up except for a moment on the final lap when Harvick nudged ahead for a brief period.
Failed inspection -- Harvick's car failed postrace inspection because the track bar exceeded the maximum split. That means Kahne finished second, forcing Harvick to make the 500 field on qualifying speed or owners' points. He eventually made the race on his qualifying time.
Two lanes -- Five laps in only two of the 24 cars were lined up single file on the high lane. By the end of Lap 6 all 24 were single file. Spotters continuously said, "Everybody's still single.'' Dale Earnhardt Jr. said earlier in the day that the racing should be better because the taller spoiler allowed cars to run a second lane better. He showed that when Matt Kenseth and a group followed him to the bottom and formed a train that sent him to the front on Lap 15.
Costly mistake -- Earnhardt was leading when he pitted with 23 laps remaining, but flat-spotted his front tires hitting the brakes so he wouldn't be speeding when he hit pit road. He complained of a vibration after a no-tire stop. He finished fifth.
Who's in -- Bowman, Cole Whitt and Josh Wise locked down a spot. So did 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch by virtue of team owner Tony Stewart's 11th-place finish. That makes Busch eligible for the first past champion's provisional no matter what he does in the second race.