"Top Gun" taught the 1980s to never, never leave your wingman. Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers never left theirs Thursday — one out of necessity, the other by default.
Kasey Kahne and his wingman, Juan Pablo Montoya, found each other early in the first Duel 150-mile qualifying race at Daytona and became inseparable, even dependent on each other. Montoya pushed Kahne; Kahne pushed Montoya. Over and over, they swapped positions in their personal two-car draft so much so that Kahne simply called for a "switch" over the radio, and the spotters watching above made the arrangements.
They pitted together on lap 35 for a fuel-only stop and returned to the fight at the front. Kahne's No. 4 Red Bull Toyota led four times for eight laps and was on point when the field came out of the second caution and into a green-white-checkered finish. But two laps later, the Kahne-Montoya tandem finished third to Kurt Busch-Regan Smith and Kevin Harvick-Matt Kenseth.
I thought we had a good chance at winning, but so did the other five that we were battling there.
"I thought we had a good chance at winning, but so did the other five that we were battling there," Kahne said. "Myself and Juan worked really well together. The Red Bull Toyota was good. I got together with Juan and we tried to stay together the rest of the day and we ended up getting beat a little bit there at the end."
Kahne's fifth-place finish was his fourth consecutive top 10 in the Duels. He won Duel No. 2 last season.
"Everybody knows the fastest way around so they're going to get that way quick," Kahne said. "It's going to get spread out and you're just going to have these little packs racing each other all day. The thing is you figure out how hard they can push, how hard you can push, how difficult it is to keep them on your bumper without getting that air gap that a couple cars can get away from you. You figure that out and you just want to keep it."
After missing most of the 2010 season while recovering from blood clots, Brian Vickers turned his first "real" laps in 285 days Thursday.
He drafted the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota into the top 10, but lost momentum when the car slipped ever so slightly in turn three. He lost his partner in Ryan Newman as most of field roared past, and Vickers ended up being paired with the No. 09 of Bill Elliott.
Vickers and Elliott pitted together on lap 39. Soon after, the lead cars' furious pace put their two-car draft more than 21 seconds behind, and Vickers finished 14th.
"It was just playing catch-up the rest of the time," Vickers said. "We ended up just stuck back there without much help. If guys are driving away from you then you have to get together and go. Maybe everyone will calm down and just kind of choose to ride in the pack (in the Daytona 500). Once two or three guys take off then you have to run them down or they’re going to lap you."
Based on their finish in the first Duel, coupled with the finishing order of the second, Kahne will start 11th and Vickers 27th in Sunday’s Daytona 500.
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- Vickers Calls Daytona 500 a 'Crapshoot.'
- Kahne's Expectations for 2011.
- BV: I Just Want to Win a Championship.