After NASCAR set the front row of the starting grid for the Daytona 500 with front-row qualifying on February 9, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. claiming the pole and Alex Bowman the second starting spot, the 40-car Datyona 500 grid was completed Thursday night with the running of two Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona races.
Joey Logano claimed a second-straight Duel win, following up his Duel two win from a year ago with a win in the first Duel on Thursday night. William Byron won the second Duel race Thursday. As a result, Logano and Byron will start Sunday’s Daytona 500 in the second row behind Stenhouse and Bowman.
Two drivers, Daniel Suarez and Chad Finchum, failed to advance from the first Duel to the Daytona 500 starting grid. Finchum finished 20th of the 22 cars in the race. Suarez wound up last after a lap-30 wreck with Ryan Blaney took him out of the race. Blaney was able to continue.
“The 2 [Brad Keselowski] car, he started getting his hand out of the window super, super late, and I didn’t see him. When I started going out, the 12 [Blaney] was there,” Suarez said.
Aric Almirola finished second in the first Duel after pushing Logano to the lead on lap 38 of the 60-lap race. Ryan Newman finished third and Brad Keselowski fourth to give Ford the top-four finishing spots. Darrell Wallace Jr. rounded out the top-five.
“This is awesome. What great teamwork by the Fords, especially Aric Almirola, my goodness,” Logano said. “He was a great pusher at the right time, and we were able to hold off the bottom when we needed and hold off the Chevys and showed the speed that the Fords have here. That is something I am proud to be a part of. I am proud to be driving that ‘Blue Oval’ and these Roush Yates motors. We are ready to rock and roll. I can’t wait for the 500.”
Logano led 19 laps while Daytona 500 pole sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led a race-high 27, including the first 22. Stenhouse wound up eighth at the checkered flag.
Drivers not locked into the Daytona 500 who advanced to the main event from the first Duel were Reed Sorenson and Justin Haley. Haley clinched a spot in the Daytona 500 through his speed in front-row qualifying last weekend, but raced his way into the Daytona 500 through a 17th-place finish in the first Duel, anyway. As a result, Reed Sorenson, who finished 18th in the first Duel race was able to fall back on his front-row qualifying day speed to make the Daytona 500.
In the second Duel, J.J. Yelow was denied a Daytona 500 starting spot after he, like Suarez in the first Duel, was retired early in a crash. In Yeley’s case, he wrecked with Corey LaJoie on lap 42 of the second Duel.
Brendan Gaughan and Timmy Hill were the other two drivers in the second Duel who headed into Daytona Speedweeks with their Daytona 500 participation uncertain. Gaughan clinched a spot in front-row qualifying and, then, was caution in his Duel race, wining up 17th at the finish. Hill finished 16th.
Jimmie Johnson finished second to his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Byron, in the second Duel. Kyle Larson was third to give Chevrolet the top-three spots in the finishing order.
“We didn’t really have Chevy orders or anything like that. We just did a good job of working together,” Byron said. Kurt [Busch] was a great pusher and a great helper, and I really had a lot of trust in him. I was really trying to go with one to go, but I had enough momentum out of the tri-oval just watching old races; that’s just kind of where the momentum kind of lines up. So I didn’t know if I’d get that same momentum once everybody started pushing with one to go. So just made it there. Got to second, I guess. And then, Kevin played really nice and didn’t pull a big block. Thanks to Axalta. This car looks really good. It sure is beautiful under the lights. I’m excited for the 500.”
Kevin Harvick finished fourth after leading a race-high 34 laps in the second Duel. His Stewart-Haas Racing teammate and 2020 Cup Series rookie Cole Custer rounded out the top-five.
Bowman was the only other driver to lead more than 10 laps in the second Duel, running up front for 12 laps. He finished 15th.
CLICK HERE FOR BLUEGREEN VACATIONS DUEL AT DAYTONA RESULTS AND THE FULL DAYTONA 500 STARTING GRID.