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


Starting Position

NASCAR Cup Driver

Car Number & Team


Alex Bowman

#48 Hendrick Motorsports


William Byron

#24 Hendrick Motorsports


Aric Almirola

#10 Stewart-Haas Racing


Austin Dillon

#3 Richard Childress Racing


Christopher Bell

#20 Joe Gibbs Racing


Bubba Wallace

#23 23XI Racing


Ryan Newman

#6 Roush Fenway Racing


Kevin Harvick

#4 Stewart-Haas Racing


Joey Logano

#22 Team Penske


Kyle Busch

#18 Joe Gibbs Racing


Ryan Preece*

#37 JTG Daugherty Racing*


Chase Elliott

#9 Hendrick Motorsports


Kyle Larson

#5 Hendrick Motorsports


Ryan Blaney

#12 Team Penske


Daniel Suarez

#99 Trackhouse Racing


Corey LaJoie

#7 Spire Motorsports


Michael McDowell

#34 Front Row Motorsports


David Ragan*

#36 Front Row Motorsports*


Jamie McMurray

#77 Spire Motorsports


Kurt Busch

#1 Chip Ganassi Racing


Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

#47 JTG Daugherty Racing


Chris Buescher

#17 Roush Fenway Racing


Matt DiBenedetto

#21 Wood Brothers Racing


Brad Keselowski

#2 Team Penske


Denny Hamlin

#11 Joe Gibbs Racing


Martin Truex Jr.

#19 Joe Gibbs Racing


Cole Custer

#41 Stewart-Haas Racing


Joey Gase

#53 Rick Ware Racing


Tyler Reddick

#8 Richard Childress Racing


Chase Briscoe

#14 Stewart-Haas Racing


Erik Jones

#43 Petty Motorsports


Derrike Cope

#15 Rick Ware Racing


Quin Houff

#00 StarCom Racing


Ross Chastain

#42 Chip Ganassi Racing


Cody Ware

#51 Rick Ware Racing


Anthony Alfredo

#38 Front Row Motorsports


Josh Bilicki

#52 Rick Ware Racing


BJ McLeod

#78 Live Fast Motorsports


Austin Cindric**

#33 Team Penske


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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