Almirola, Dillon win Duels at Daytona for NASCAR Cup Series season opener Daytona 500. The Great American Race runs this Sunday, February 14th.
The Bluegreen Vacation Duels at Daytona International Speedway are the first points bearing races of the season. They also set the lineup for the Daytona 500. The finishing positions for Duel 1 set the inside line, and the finishing positions for Duel 2 set the outside line. These duels can become dicey with drivers fighting for a good finish to also have a good starting position for the Daytona 500.
Alex Bowman Holds the Pole for Daytona 500
Alex Bowman held the pole for the first duel of the night. He and Aric Almirola jockeyed for position with neither gaining an advantage. The field quickly moved to three-wide action with Daniel Suarez organizing a third line along the top. Suarez surged into the lead before the field shuffled out.
The field moved into a single file with Almirola regaining the lead. Alex Bowman at this point fell out of the draft with an apparent engine problem. The field came down pit road under the green flag with 26 laps remaining.
Aric Almirola cycled back in front with Joey Logano pushing behind. The first duel of the night ran caution-free and Almirola led down to the wire. On the last lap, Joey Logano tried to make a move coming out of turn four, but it was not enough. Almirola was able to defend Logano’s run with a side draft and gain the advantage for the win!
Aric Almirola will roll off in third to start the Daytona 500. He has run extremely well in superspeedway races. Almirola has won at Talladega and had a shot in 2018 to win the Daytona 500 before being wrecked out of the lead on the last lap. He is going to be a big factor on Sunday especially if the rest of the Ford crew runs well. Almirola is toward the front and will possibly lead a lot of laps on Sunday.
Bowman’s Daytona 500 Pole in Jeopardy
Alex Bowman, the pole-sitter for the Daytona 500, had an apparent engine issue during Duel 1. He had to come down pit road for his team to check out the issue. If he changes engines heading into Sunday, he will be forced to give up his pole starting position and go to the back of the field for the start of the Daytona 500. If his team carries on with this engine, it could lead to further issues in one of the most anticipated races of the whole season. It will be an interesting decision that his team will make in the next two days.
Daytona Duel 2 Finishes after Two-Hour Rain Delay
Now, William Byron qualified second on Wednesday night, and he led the field to the green flag for Duel 2. William Byron, Bubba Wallace, and Kevin Harvick fought hard for the top spot with no driver wanting to settle. Wallace ended up falling back after being forced out of the draft. The race fell to a single file with William Byron leading the way.
Around lap 32, a group of drivers formed a bottom lane with Kevin Harvick charging to the front. On lap 34, Harvick moved to the lead right as a caution flag came out. Chase Briscoe and four other drivers spun down the backstretch. Under caution, everyone came down pit road with Ryan Blaney cycling into the lead.
Once more, William Byron made the pass on Blaney after the restart. Byron continued to lead, but not for long. Kevin Harvick had a run down the backstretch on lap 54. He made the pass on Byron for the lead.
With five laps remaining, Brad Keselowski ran into trouble as he was spun out. He also collected William Byron in the wreck.
The race moved into overtime with Martin Truex Jr. and Bubba Wallace on the front row. Truex Jr. ended up being shuffled out of the lead by Austin Dillon. Dillon and Wallace carried on into the last lap. Coming around turn four, Dillon had a run on the bottom. Austin Dillon moved up the track and Bubba Wallace just could not block in time. Austin Dillon moved into the lead and took the checkered flag winning Duel 2!
William Byron to the Back for Daytona 500
Another big topic of the night is William Byron moving to a backup car. Immediately after the race, Byron’s team was moving the backup car off the trailer. William Byron will be forced to start from the back of the field on Sunday for the Daytona 500. This is going to be huge for William Byron and his team as he led the most laps last night in Duel 2. His car showed a lot of speed and Byron showed he can pace the field, which is not something Chevy has been able to do in superspeedway races in the past few years. We will see how the backup car performs. He will have one practice for his team to tune it up for what he needs during the Daytona 500.