The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series went dueling on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway – setting the remaining starting positions for the Daytona 500.
Four open team drivers went into the Duel 150s not knowing whether they would be racing in Sunday’s event. Casey Mears and Tyler Reddick, who were the fastest open cars in Daytona 500 qualifying this past Sunday, came into the 150-mile races with nothing to lose as they had already locked themselves into the race.
Kevin Harvick ended the night victorious in Duel race No. 1 at Daytona International Speedway. Harvick led the field for 44 of the 60 laps after starting in the eighth position. With the win on Thursday, Harvick will start the season with 10 driver points.
“It handled good when we were behind cars. Last week taught us that we needed to have track position. They did a good job on pit road and got on and off pit road and then we had a couple Ford Mustangs behind us as well. Ricky and Paul worked with us and we were able to keep the track position and our cars were fast enough together to keep everyone else back there,” said Harvick after the first race. “I am really proud of everybody on our Busch Beer Ford Mustang. It is a great way to get Mustang into victory lane. I gotta thank everybody from Busch and the great promotion with Car2Can with 40 cool cans that are made of my old cars. It is cool to see those in victory lane.”
Daytona 500 pole sitter William Byron led the second most laps of 16. The young racer went on to finish 16th in the No. 24 Chevrolet. Despite finishing outside the top 15, and if they have no issues in practice on Friday or Saturday, Byron will still start on the pole for the “Great American Race.”
“Yeah, we raced for a while there. I thought we learned a little something towards the beginning of the race with leading and how our car was going to be,” said Byron after the first event. “And then we were able to make some moves that were pretty good. After that restart we got in a huge hornet’s nest and we were on the bottom of three-wide, so we just bailed on that. Overall, it was good. Pretty happy with it. It was mission accomplished for us so far.”
Parker Kligerman locked himself into the Daytona 500 field by finishing 12th in the first Duel 150. That placed Ryan Truex out of the Daytona 500 provisionally – barring where Mears finished in the second Duel 150 race.
“This is incredible. I can’t believe we just raced our way into the Daytona 500,” said an excited Parker Kligerman. “That was insane those last couple laps. It’s a bit bittersweet though, because Ryan (Truex) is a good buddy of mine and having to beat him. I feel like it would’ve been cooler if it was like two vs. two there at the end, which it kind of was, but it would’ve been cool to race to the line together or something. It was a little bit of an odd race that we had. We were just kind of blocking each other at the end. Hey, look, it’s about this Toyota Camry getting into the Daytona 500 and we did that.”
Taking the checkered flag in Duel race No. 2 was Joey Logano in the Shell / Pennzoil Ford. Logano won the event in a last-lap pass around race leader Clint Bowyer – earning 10 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver points. Second-place finisher Clint Bowyer led the most laps in the second 150-mile event.
“You have the whole race to think about making a move and we were all out there just waiting. Everyone behind me really wanted to go and I just knew that I had to wait,” said Logano after winning the second event. “The later you can do it, the less the risk if it doesn't work. I got a good run from the 12 behind me and went to the bottom and got a good run. Was able to side draft the 10 and pull him back and just barely get enough to break that plane in front of the 14 and clear him up. From there I was just blocking to the finish like. My spotter TJ did a great job feeding me all the information I needed to make a decision. We had a really fast Shell Pennzoil Mustang. It is cool to see a couple Mustangs in victory lane already. I hope it continues for the big race on Sunday. Great start for our race team. Off we go.”
Alex Bowman, who will start second beside teammate William Byron in the Daytona 500, led the first 12 laps of the second Duel 150. Despite Bowman finishing 13th in his No. 88 Chevrolet, and if they have no issues in practice on Friday or Saturday, the driver will start second in the 61st annual Daytona 500.
“I would have liked to have raced a little more, but just kind of got in a bad box there. When we were going around those lap cars, I got stuck on the bottom of three-wide and I was going to be at the back of the group running anyway,” said the driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. “The blue oval gang did a little better job on and off of pit road than we did. That was frustrating because I think we were on both sides of the strategy between the first and second Duel and they did a better job both times. That is frustrating. We’ve got to get that part of it together if we are going to go beat them, but it’s good to have the car in one piece and the No. 88 Nationwide Camaro was pretty good.”
Brendan Gaughan locked himself into the Daytona 500 field in the second Duel 150 by finishing ahead of Casey Mears. That placed Joey Gase, along with Ryan Truex, out of the Daytona 500 field.
“I always come off as a class clown, but I haven’t been that nervous in a long time getting behind the wheel of a race car,” said the veteran racer. “The Beard family put so much into this and we come here to run very well; not run like that. You’ve got to have discretion of valor you’ve got to make do with what you have to make do with. I had to change strategies on the fly. Darren Shaw, my crew chief, and Ron Lewis, my spotter did a great job. Thank you, Corey LaJoie. He just kind of stuck right in there with us on that pit stop and that’s what got us in this position; so, thank you, guys. We’ll see you at the Daytona 500!”
Rest of the top 10 finishers in Duel No. 1 included Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Paul Menard, Matt DiBenedetto, Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace, Chris Buescher, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Ryan Preece.
Rest of the top 10 in Duel No. 2 included Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Ty Dillon.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will see the track three more times before the “Great American Race” on Sunday. The series will have a pair of 50-minute practice sessions on Friday at 1:05 and 3:05 p.m. ET. on FS1. The final practice for the Daytona 500 will take place on Saturday at 12:05 p.m. ET. live on FS1.
The Daytona 500 will take place on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET. live on FOX and MRN Radio.