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Denny Hamlin used a push from Austin Dillon and momentum on the outside lane to pass race leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the victory in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with two laps to go in Thursday's Can-Am Duel 2 at Daytona International Speedway.
The reigning Daytona 500 winner, Hamlin has also won a Duel race twice in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.
"We definitely had a strong car but so much of that race was single file and so it was really tough to show what we could do in the pack once we got two- and three-wide, but it looked like our car could make some really good moves and got a great push from the 3 (Dillon) there at the end," Hamlin said. "It looked like our cars worked really, really well together there so we’ll keep that in mind when I need somebody to draft with in the 500."
Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch finished second and third, respectively, while AJ Allmendinger nabbed a fourth-place result in his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet. Austin Dillon completed the top five in his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevy.
Earnhardt Jr., who led Duel 2 to green to start the 60-lap event, led a race-high 53 laps around the superspeedway but finished sixth.
"I don't know what I could have done differently to defend that," Earnhardt said after the race. "Once I heard the No. 3 (Dillon) was clear on the outside, I knew they was going to have a big run. Denny (Hamlin) is so smart and he knows what he's doing out there. He's one of the better plate racers out there. Any which way I would have went, he was going to go the other way and probably get by me. I was hoping Austin might push us a little bit since he drives a Chevy; but I don't know if I would have done it any different than he did, either. Congratulations to Denny."
The Can-Am Duel 2 race set the outside row for Sunday's Daytona 500, with Earnhardt Jr. retaining his outside pole position from Sunday's qualifying session. Duel 2 winner Hamlin will start fourth, runner up Clint Bowyer will roll off the grid sixth, etc.
Just as Duel 1, the top-10 finishers received championship points: Race winner Hamlin earned 10 points, second-place Bowyer received nine, continuing down through 10th-place. Fourth-place finisher Allmendinger did not receive any points as he failed post-race inspection.
Ryan Blaney (20th) was contending for the lead with 15 laps to go and running in the top three when his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford was clipped by Jimmie Johnson (13th), who got loose from David Ragan's (11th) No. 38 ride. Ragan and Blaney also had some contact. Blaney took a trip down pit road under green for repairs. One lap later, Johnson scraped the wall, triggered the caution and brought the No. 48 Chevrolet down pit road for five-minute repairs, per NASCAR's new damage rule.
DJ Kennington was the highest-running Open car in 15th-place and thus earned a spot in Sunday's Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Elliott Sadler received a spot due to speed in Sunday's qualifying session. Timmy Hill did not make the field.