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“I think it’s tough because you don’t know when you get that push. You don’t know when it plays into your time,” said Kahne, who never got close enough to Busch to take a solid shot at the win. “I think you need to be ready at any time to get to the front, to second, to third, try to move up. I don’t think waiting till the last lap is a ticket the way things are right now.”

And Kahne wasn’t ready to give Harvick the win in the big race, either.

“I think Kevin looks really good,” he said. “He’s got this place figured out. I think he can be beat, yeah. There’s a few of us in the second race who had really good cars, and I could move around really well, similar to what Harvick did in the first race.”

In the first race, Harvick held off Greg Biffle over a four-lap sprint to win. Harvick and Biffle also went 1-2 in last Saturday night’s exhibition race.

The starting field for the Daytona 500 is set by the results from the pair of 60-lap qualifiers, but Patrick held onto the pole by running a safe race in the first qualifier. The first woman to win a pole at NASCAR’s top level, Patrick earned the top starting spot in time trials last weekend.

She started first in the first qualifier, raced a bit early, then faded back to run a conservative race and ensure she’ll start first in the 500.

“I hate coming to the end like that and just lagging back,” she said. “That’s not fun. But it’s also really ignorant to go drive up into the pack and be part of an accident for absolutely no reason. You’re really not going to learn much there.”

Patrick wound up 17th out of 23 cars.

“What I really feel like I need to do is go down to the Harvick bus and see what he’s doing,” she said. “He’s got it going on down here.”

The first race was dull until Denny Hamlin brought out the only caution with seven laps remaining. Hamlin lost control of his car, spun into Carl Edwards and triggered a four-car accident that also collected Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne, who had a dominant car early in the qualifier.

“I know what the wrecks look like now, I am really familiar with them,” said Edwards, who was wrecked at testing in January and in practice for the exhibition race last week. He was also black-flagged in the exhibition race when his window net fell off.

Hamlin said the accident was a product of drivers trying to learn the nuances of NASCAR’s new Gen-6 car.

“It just shows you that any kind of bad aero position you put yourself in, your car can be vulnerable,” said Hamlin, who was running in the high line when he inched into Edwards’ space down low.

Juan Pablo Montoya, who infamously crashed into a jet dryer during last year’s Daytona 500 to trigger a massive fuel fire, stopped for minor repairs during the caution. Montoya restarted the race in 13th with four laps remaining, but rocketed through the field to finish third.

“It was time to go,” he said. “It’s hard, you don’t want to tear up the car, and at the same time you want to go. The bumpers are a little fragile. You have to be careful with that. You want to have a good car at the end.”

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