Chevrolet, Ford Win Battles, Who Wins the War?

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 14: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer Car2Can Ford, leads during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander RV Duel At DAYTONA #1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 14, 2019 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo – Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway covers ten days and encompasses many different events leading up to the Great American Race, the Daytona 500.  On the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series side of racing, the first focus is a week before the main event with Pole Qualifying followed by the Advanced Auto Parts Clash featuring select drivers.  Then in the week leading up to the biggest event in racing, the Gander RV Duel set the starting lineup for the prestigious race this Sunday.

Chevrolet drew first blood during Pole Qualifying, with Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) dominating and placing all four of their cars at the top. Young William Byron in the No. 24 was the fastest and Alex Bowman in the No. 88 was second quick and will start alongside Byron on the front row.  This was the fifth consecutive pole for the HMS, sixth overall and was Chevrolet’s 700th career pole at NASCAR’s top level. 

Richard Childress Racing also had quick Chevys as rookie Daniel Hemric in the No. 8 timed in sixth and defending Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon’s No. 3 was tenth, giving the manufacturer six of the top-ten spots.

While the Advanced Auto Parts Clash is a separate exhibition race with only select drivers eligible to race, it still carries historic value as well as bragging rights. The race was interrupted multiple times by weather, which also ended the event early but when it was declared official, it was a Chevy ZL1 Camaro that pulled into Victory Lane. 

Seven-time Champion Jimmie Johnson in an HMS Chevrolet knew rain was approaching and made a bold move to take the lead.  Contact with another car created an ensuing melee, knocking the majority of the field out of contention.  The precipitation did indeed come before the race could be resumed and it was declared official with Jimmie Johnson as the winner.

Thursday’s Duel races were a different story as Ford stepped up to the plate and on the gas.  The No. 4 with Kevin Harvick driving for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) led Duel 1 under the checkered flag as the inside row of the Daytona 500 was determined. 

Harvick was followed by two more blue ovals as the No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in his Roush-Fenway Racing (RFR) Mustang and the No. 21 Paul Menard of the Wood Brothers Racing were both in line right behind the leader.  Another RFR machine, the No. 6 of new Ford driver Ryan Newman finished tenth, meaning almost half the top-ten were Fords.

Duel 2 ended with a little more excitement as Team Penske’s No. 22 driven by Joey Logano pulled out of line from fourth place on the last lap to take the lead away from SHR driver Clint Bower and claim victory for his own team.  Bowyer did manage to hold onto second with SHR teammate Aric Almirola right with him in third.

Another Mustang collected a top finish as another Team Penske car, the No. 12 of Ryan Blaney came home sixth.  Again, almost half of the top-ten were Fords as the outside row was now set.

Now that the battle is decided for who starts where in the 61st running of the annual Great American Race and Speedweeks comes to a close, the question is who wins the war and becomes a Daytona 500 Champion?  By the way, Toyota also has a handful of entries capable of winning, so they may be the one to deliver the final blow.