After rain forced a delay in the start of the second of two Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona races at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday night, Austin Dillon edged out Darrell “Bubba” Wallace for the win in the second race of the day. Aric Almirola won the opening Duel.
“What a way to capitalize on our Duel and show what our #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE can do,” Dillon said. “I was talking to my spotter, Brandon Benesch, about having the #4 [Kevin Harvick] car behind us on the final restart since he had been pushing well all night. I knew he had another Ford behind him, though, so it was going to be tough. I made a decent block down the backstretch and got a big push after that. I knew the #23 [Wallace] was going to try to block me as we came to the line, but I just whipped the wheel, and it all worked out. It’s going to be a great feeling rolling off Sunday up near the front row, and I’m hopeful we can have a similar result that evening for Bass Pro Shops, Tracker Off Road, Dow, Coca-Cola and all of our partners.”
With the win, Dillon claimed a second-row starting position for the Daytona 500, scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Results of Duel two set the outside line, or even-numbered starting positions, behind front-row starters and Hendrick teammates Alex Bowman and William Byron for Sunday’s Daytona 500, the official 2021 season-opener for the NASCAR Cup Series. Bowman and Byron claimed their starting positions, with Bowman on the pole, in a single-car, single-lap qualifying session Wednesday evening.
Wallace, with his new seat behind the wheel of the new 23XI Racing team, fell 0.057 seconds short of victory Thursday night in the second Duel.
“A lot of mistakes. A good debut, but nothing to be really happy about for myself,” Wallace said. “It’s okay for drivers to be hard on themselves. That’s how we motivate ourselves to go out and do better. Hats off to my guys – the 23XI team – for building me a great DoorDash Toyota Camry. I tried to do all I could to help [Martin] Truex, there; get Toyota a win. I appreciate Kyle [Busch] for cutting me a lot of breaks. I know I’ve got a lot to learn, here, but all in all, it was a good night, but I’ve got some learning to do.”
Kevin Harvick finished third, Kyle Busch was fourth, and Chase Elliott was fifth.
David Ragan and Kaz Grala were among eight drivers, four in the second Duel, who headed into the NASCAR portion of Daytona Speedweeks with open, or non-chartered, teams; therefore, their Daytona 500 participation was uncertain. Ragan, though, cemented Daytona 500 qualification by being the highest qualifier among the eight during Wednesday’s qualifying session. Ragan, then, raced his way into the Daytona 500 by finishing eighth in the Duel, handing rights to the Daytona 500 by virtue of Wednesday qualifying results to Grala.
Grala finished 14th in the second Duel. Meanwhile, Garrett Smithley and Noah Gragson failed to make the Daytona 500 with 16th and 18th-place finishes, respectively, in the Duel two.
The yellow flag waved twice in the second Duel, with the first caution coming on lap 36 when Briscoe spun and collected Grala, Smithley and Anthony Alfredo. The second yellow flag sent the race into overtime when it waved on lap 57 when Smithley hooked Brad Keselowski and Byron, Gragson, Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain were collected.
Ragan was the only open driver in the second Duel not involved in one of the crashes.
Byron led a race-high 34 laps before his involvement in the second crash. He wound up 19th at the checkered flag.
Championship points were awarded to the top-10 finishers in each Duel. finishing sixth through 10th in the second race were Blaney, Corey LaJoie, Ragan, Kurt Busch and Chris Buescher.
Harvick was the only driver other than Byron to lead more than 10 laps, running up front for 11 laps. Truex, Blaney, Wallace and Dillon also were lap leaders.