Daytona International Speedway annually holds the two duel races to set the lineup for the Daytona 500 on Sunday. The first duel sets the inside line, and the second duel sets the outside line. These two races give the drivers the best opportunity to see how their cars will handle in the draft, and while making dicey moves to work their way to the front of the field.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is guaranteed the pole for Sunday’s race after having the fastest time in qualifying. He started on the pole for the first duel race of the night and shot out to an early lead. Receiving early help from Chase Elliott, the two Chevy drivers were able to lead the first 23 laps. On lap 24, all the Chevrolet drivers made their way down pit road under the green flag. Toyota made their move on the following lap to all pit together, and eventually, all the Ford drivers led by Joey Logano came down pit road for service. While the Fords were making their way onto pit road, Ryan Blaney came down on top of Daniel Suarez trying to follow his Ford teammates. Blaney and Suarez both wrecked with Suarez receiving the most damage. Suarez needed to race his way into the Daytona 500, and now he will miss the biggest race of the year.
Stenhouse Jr. moved back to the front of the field on the restart, and the momentum shifted to Joey Logano and the rest of his Ford teammates. Logano received a big push from Aric Almirola, and the two were able to fend off the bottom lane led by Stenhouse Jr. Joey Logano wins the first Bluegreen Vacations Duel.
Alex Bowman took the green flag to kick off the second duel. He is also guaranteed a front-row start after having the second-fastest qualifying time. With Bowman leading early, the top lane became disorganized on a crazy start with everyone battling for position. Kevin Harvick reorganized the bottom lane and went on a big run to pass Bowman for the lead. Ten laps into Harvick’s march, Bowman shot back into the lead after receiving a push from William Byron. Once again, all the Chevrolet drivers came down pit road under the green flag on lap 24. All the Ford and Toyota drivers pit at the same time a few laps later. Kevin Harvick cycled back into the lead. Right as the race settled down, JJ Yeley spins and wrecks on lap 42. This brought out the only caution of the second duel. Harvick continued to lead on the restart with twelve laps remaining. William Byron led the charge on the bottom lane and moved into the lead with two laps remaining. This is what Byron needed as he was able to bring his racing machine around one more time and win the second Bluegreen Vacations Duel.
The field is set for Sunday’s Daytona 500 and fans can expect an exciting day for all of NASCAR. A new season kicks off with a big rookie class looking to make an impact. Some drivers have moved onto different teams with different crew chiefs as well. It all starts this Sunday, and everyone is ready to start this season off with a bang.