After joining the ownership group of the renamed Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, co-owner and driver Brad Keselowski wasted no time in getting the two-car organization into victory lane. Keselowski won the first of two 60-lap Bluegreen Vacations Duel races Thursday night and teammate Chris Buescher won the second to sweep Daytona 500 second-row starting positions.
“This builds confidence in each other and builds expectations,” Keselowski said. “Not just the expectations, that’s probably not the right word, it builds a reality that those expectations can happen.”
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman already had claimed front-row Daytona 500 starting spots in a traditional qualifying session Wednesday night.
Kaz Grala and Greg Biffle, two of six drivers with open, or non-chartered, teams on the Daytona 500 entry list, made the official season opener through Duel performance. Grala finished 18th in the first Duel by passing J.J. Yeley on the final lap to garner a Daytona 500 starting position. Meanwhile, Yeley was denied a Daytona 500 start.
Greg Biffle made his first Cup Series race since 2016 by finishing 13th in the second Duel, while Timmy Hill failed to make the 2022 Daytona 500 with a 20th-place finish in the second Duel.
Jacques Villeneueve and Noah Gragson, the two other drivers with open teams, secured Daytona 500 entry by being the two fastest open drivers in Wednesday’s qualifying session.
Keselowski’s Duel win came after he passed fellow-Ford driver Ryan Blaney on lap 57 — the second and last lead change of the race. Chevrolet, led by reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Larson, dominated the first half of the race until the Chevrolet group made pit stops on lap 35. Ford drivers pitted a lap later, each taking only two tires to get out in front of Chevrolet.
“It’s really important to get that winning habit built up, and the only way you can really do that is to go win,” Keselowski said. “There’s a lot of guys and gals on my team that have never won a race before. The company has not won a race in five, six years now, five and a half, something like that. That’s any kind of race.”
Ford claimed the top-four finishing in the opening Duel with Austin Cindric in second, Blaney third and Chase Briscoe fourth. Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five.
After the first Duel ran caution-free, the only yellow flag of the evening waved on the final lap of the second Duel because of a block-gone-wrong by Joey Logano.
“Driver screwed up. That’s really all there is to it,” Logano said. “I thought I was still clear and the run came a lot quicker than I thought it would. I tried to block it a little bit and just got a tag in the left-rear and off it went. It’s my fault. It stinks because it tore up our car and kind of puts us in a spot as a race team. It’s just a dumb mistake.”
Logano, who led 33 laps, took the white flag as the race leader before attempting to block Buescher. Logano, as a result, hit the wall as Buescher took the win.
“This is awesome,” Buescher said. “What a great start for RFK and with all the hard work the guys have put in to get this thing going. Everybody back here has worked so hard in the off-season. For us to put it in victory lane is just an awesome start for the entire organization.”
Reigning Daytona 500 champion Michael McDowell finished second, and Harrison Burton, despite sustaining damage in the Logano incident, finished third for an all-Ford top-three. Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell finished fourth and fifth.
BLUEGREEN VACATIONS DUELS RESULTS AND DAYTONA 500 STARTING LINEUP