After wrecking late in the second of two Bluegreen Vacation Duel at Daytona races at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday night, William Byron will go to a backup car and drop to the back for the start of the Daytona 500 on Sunday afternoon. Byron claimed a front-row starting position for the official 2021 NASCAR season-opener during front-row qualifying Wednesday.
Cole Custer also will go to a backup car and, therefore, drop to the back for Sunday’s green flag. Custer wrecked his primary car on the first lap of the opening Duel race.
“We were running in the top-10 for most of the night and tried to go to the bottom to get better track position at the end,” Custer said. “We were just too loose, and it didn’t work out. We’ve got some work to do on our HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang, but we have time to get things figured out during practice, and then, we’ll turn our attention to the Daytona 500.”
The first 60-lap Duel race ran caution-free, but the yellow flag waved twice during the second Duel. The last of those two cautions came on lap 57, sending the race into overtime. Drivers other than Byron involved in one of the two wrecks in the second Duel and, as a result, starting the Daytona 500 in the back in backup cars include Brad Keselowski, Kaz Grala, Anthony Alfredo and Ross Chastain.
Despite dropping to the back for the start of the race, Byron still will officially be considered the second starter of the race, alongside pole sitter and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman. Whether or not Bowman starts the race up front has not been determined, as of now, after a possible engine issue in the first Duel.
Bowman reported an possible engine problem during his Duel race, and about halfway through the race, his team performed a diagnostic test that showed no problem. The team will make the decision whether or not to change the engine during one of two practice sessions scheduled for Saturday. An engine change would force Bowman to the back for Sunday’s green flag.
“Obviously, we were trying to run as hard as we could, there, at the beginning of the race,” Bowman’s crew chief Greg Ives said. “We wanted to try to stay in the draft and understand what the handling was. He felt it handled fine and then went towards the back of the pack. Alex felt and heard something in the engine, which turned into a vibration in the chassis. Being a non-points race and being locked in, it allowed us to do some things that would make us a few laps down. We talked through engine diagnostics and sent some guys over pit wall who don’t normally go over the wall. Our Ally Racing team was able to go through some tire sets to make sure it wasn’t that. There were a lot of things you always think you are going to be prepared for until you actually go through them. I feel like we did a good job understanding it, and hopefully, we are able to diagnose it and make sure everything is good.”