Bluegreen Vacations Duels Set Field for Daytona 500


Bluegreen Vacations Duels Set Field for Daytona 500

It was a muggy night as NASCAR Cup Series teams prepared their cars to complete in the legendary Bluegreen Vacations Duels to determine Sunday’s starting positions 3 thru 40 for the 63rd annual Daytona 500. NASCAR traditionally splits qualifying into two parts that included one-lap qualifying run for the front row (this year) and two 150-mile sprint races known as the Daytona Duels. Qualifying for the “Great American Race” held earlier in the week set the front row with Alex Bowman earning the pole with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Bryon alongside. Although the majority of the field are locked-in to the 500 based on qualifying times, eight teams entered the Duels fighting for the final four spots in the 40-car field.

Duel #1 at Daytona International Speedway

Driving the #48 car of the retired seven-time NASCAR Champion Jimmy Johnson, Alex Bowman led the field to the starting line with Aric Almirola on the outside for the Bluegreen Vacations Duel #1 at Daytona International Speedway. But, it would the driver of the #10 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing that would lead 52 of the 60 laps in Duel 1. Joey Logano rubbed paint with Almirola in turn four of the final lap but Almirola stood his ground and motored past for the win. Almirola had barely missed winning the Daytona 500 in 2018 when Austin Dillion moved him out of the way for a last lap victory. A native Floridian, Almirola won the summer race at Daytona back in 2014 driving the #43 car for the “King” at Richard Petty Motorsports. Overall, the first Duel went smoothly for most of the field as teams chose to pit together by brands. Bowman, the pole-sitter for Sunday’s 500-miler, finished in twentieth place after experiencing mechanical problems and Cole Custer clipped the wall on the last lap to finish fourteenth. Since Ryan Preece finished in fifth, Austin Cendric secured the spot for a non-chartered entry in Duel #1.

Duel #2 at Daytona International Speedway

Compared to the smooth running of Duel #1, the Bluegreen Vacations Duel #2 at Daytona International Speedway seemed to take forever and lasted into the wee hours of Friday morning. A quick Daytona downpour soaked the track and delayed the second Duel for hours. As insult to injury, one of the trucks that was drying the racing surface spun and caused its own delay as wreckers had to remove it from the apron. The lineup for Duel 2 consisted of the drivers who finished in even-numbered spots in pole qualifying. That meant the second-place qualifier William Byron led the field to line alongside fourth-place qualifier Bubba Wallace. The second Duel went to overtime following a late-race crash that caused heavy damage to the primary car for front-row qualifier William Bryon. Martin Truex Jr. led the field to the white flag but was shuffled out of the way on the backstretch. Bubba Wallace put himself in position to garner a win for his new 23XI (twenty-three eleven) race team that is co-owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin. Kyle Busch gave Bubba Wallace a push by leader Austin Dillion, but Dillion went low entering the tri-oval and won the second Deul by inches.

 Starting Lineup for the 2021 Daytona 500

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Starting Position

NASCAR Cup Driver

Car Number & Team

1.

Alex Bowman

#48 Hendrick Motorsports

2.

William Byron

#24 Hendrick Motorsports

3.

Aric Almirola

#10 Stewart-Haas Racing

4.

Austin Dillon

#3 Richard Childress Racing

5.

Christopher Bell

#20 Joe Gibbs Racing

6.

Bubba Wallace

#23 23XI Racing

7.

Ryan Newman

#6 Roush Fenway Racing

8.

Kevin Harvick

#4 Stewart-Haas Racing

9.

Joey Logano

#22 Team Penske

10.

Kyle Busch

#18 Joe Gibbs Racing

11.

Ryan Preece*

#37 JTG Daugherty Racing*

12.

Chase Elliott

#9 Hendrick Motorsports

13

Kyle Larson

#5 Hendrick Motorsports

14.

Ryan Blaney

#12 Team Penske

15.

Daniel Suarez

#99 Trackhouse Racing

16.

Corey LaJoie

#7 Spire Motorsports

17.

Michael McDowell

#34 Front Row Motorsports

18.

David Ragan*

#36 Front Row Motorsports*

19.

Jamie McMurray

#77 Spire Motorsports

20.

Kurt Busch

#1 Chip Ganassi Racing

21.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

#47 JTG Daugherty Racing

22.

Chris Buescher

#17 Roush Fenway Racing

23.

Matt DiBenedetto

#21 Wood Brothers Racing

24.

Brad Keselowski

#2 Team Penske

25.

Denny Hamlin

#11 Joe Gibbs Racing

26.

Martin Truex Jr.

#19 Joe Gibbs Racing

27.

Cole Custer

#41 Stewart-Haas Racing

28.

Joey Gase

#53 Rick Ware Racing

29.

Tyler Reddick

#8 Richard Childress Racing

30.

Chase Briscoe

#14 Stewart-Haas Racing

31.

Erik Jones

#43 Petty Motorsports

32.

Derrike Cope

#15 Rick Ware Racing

33.

Quin Houff

#00 StarCom Racing

34.

Ross Chastain

#42 Chip Ganassi Racing

35.

Cody Ware

#51 Rick Ware Racing

36.

Anthony Alfredo

#38 Front Row Motorsports

37.

Josh Bilicki

#52 Rick Ware Racing

38.

BJ McLeod

#78 Live Fast Motorsports

39.

Austin Cindric**

#33 Team Penske

40.

Kaz Grala**

#16 Kaulig Racing

  *Denotes the drivers that raced their way into the field from Duel 1 & Duel 2.

**Denotes the two driver that made the Daytona 500 on qualifying times after Duels.

 

Green-Flag Lineup for Daytona 500 Is Still in Doubt...

After Alex Bowman sensed a problem with the engine in the #48 car, his Hendrick Motorsports crew got him back on track 3 laps down. Now, the team will have to decide whether to make a pre-emptive engine change, which could send Bowman to the back of the field, or gamble on the fact that the engine used for the Duel can go the 500-mile distance on Sunday. William Bryon’s Chevrolet appeared to heavily damaged for his Hendrick Motorsports team to repair before Sunday’s Daytona 500, which almost guarantees the #24 will start from the rear of the field. Qualifying your way into the 500 with a front-row starting position guarantees the team a spot in the prestigious race but history has shown that your starting position for the 500-mile matters little at Daytona. Austin Cindric and Kaz Grala will start their first Daytona 500 via NASCAR's quirky qualifying system after Ryan Preece and David Ragan were the highest finishing non-chartered cars in each Duel. The Valentine’s Day event is scheduled to start at 2:30 PM on Sunday with an 80% chance of rain later in the day.

Photo credit Walter G. Arce

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