The high speed game of chess began with three lead changes in the first lap alone before Ryan Blaney would lead lap one in the first duel. Bowman, who started from the pole and will be there come Sunday for the Daytona 500, would take his car to the top of the track and bail out to preserve the car.
Chastain would be the first car to challenge Blaney for the lead, taking it away for a lap before the No. 23 machine of Wallace would shove Blaney back out to the lead with a three car break away.
Bowman would continue to struggle through the first duel falling over three-quarters of a lap back from the field by lap 16.
The first penalties of the season would be handed out in the first set of stops when both Stenhouse and Chandler Smith would speed on pit road. This would hurt Smith by going a lap down while serving his penalty in his pursuit to race into Sunday’s event as an open car.
Halfway through the first duel Blaney would continue to lead the way over Wallace Logano Burton and Buescher.
Blaney would bail from the lead with his other Ford teammates followed by Toyota all making their way to pit road as the lead pack to make their only stops needed for the night. Gibbs would get tagged during the round of stops for speeding, sending him back to pit road to serve a pass through.
As the group would exit pit road it would allow Logano to take over the lead from Blaney and still stay well ahead of their Chevrolet counterparts that pitted prior to the halfway point.
After taking the lead on lap 32 reigning Cup Series champion Logano would never look back aside from a short challenge from Bell in the final two corners to take home Duel 1 win.
“The execution of this race is everything because you know most likely there won't be a caution so you've got to do a good job on pit road, cycle yourself to the front. But then I am sitting there as the leader and I'm like, man, I am a sitting duck. This is not where you want to be.” Said Logano
Zane Smith, the 2022 Craftsman Truck Series champion, would race his way into the Daytona 500 with an eighth-place finish. The other Smith in the race, Chandler would finish in 18th and a lap down after a speeding penalty on pit road would prevent him from racing his way into the race.
“Just so proud of everyone. Wellcare and better, Ford Performance. I don't know what life is. I had Jimmie Johnson parked behind me. I watched him all my life growing up and still is my idol. Just unbelievable being in the Great American Race.” Said Zane Smith
Duel 1 top-five finishers: Logano, Bell, Blaney, Buescher and McDowell.
Conor Daly's pursuit for a spot in the Daytona 500 would nearly come to an end well prior to the green flag when the No. 50 machine would roll off pit road bouncing while Daly would remark of how something was very wrong with the car.
Larson would lead the first laps in the duel before Almriola would take the lead on the second lap with Cindric in tow dropping Larson back into the third spot. Almirola would maintain the lead for several laps before Larson would once again take his No. 5 machine back to the point.
With just six laps completed in the second Duel the first caution of the entire night would come out not for an accident but for a side window blowing out of the No. 31 machine of Haley.
As racing would commence Kyle and Kyle as in Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson would engage in a back and forth battle for the lead. This would also be the first laps lead for Kyle Busch at Richard Childress Racing since ending his tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the 2022 season.
Passing the halfway point in the second duel Busch would continue to control the field over Suarez would move into the second spot over Larson.
Daly’s struggles would continue and by lap 37 would end up going a lap down.
Kyle Busch's night would come to an end on lap 40 when a hard push from Suarez would turn the No. 8 machine into the wall. Also involved would be the transfer car of Austin Hill.
Pastrana who was already locked into the race would end up taking his car to the garage.
Hill and team would attempt to make repairs to the car but a badly damaged suspension in the car would force the team to take the car to the garage as the six-minute DVP clock would expire on them ending their night on lap 45.
Daly would be the beneficiary of Austin Hill’s wreck and would make the Daytona 500 after all.
“Well, we were inherently unlucky for the last 36 hours, but we got lucky. I wish I could have said that I drove it in on pure pace, but it was just crazy. When we went out there, the car was bouncing around. I had no idea what was going on. I thought the drivetrain was broken, and Tony just made it better every time. We got lucky with the yellows to try to get some experience, but it is pretty crazy.” Said Daly
With laps winding down in the second duel, Cindric and Almirola would battle with one another until Gilliland would push Cindric out to the lead over Almirola.
Cindric would attempt to block the high line run by Lajoie and Elliott allowing Gilliland to take advantage and take over the lead with two laps to go.
As the white flag would come out both Almirola and Gilliland would draw even at the line until Larson would get into the back bumper of Gilliland getting him way loose allowing Almirola to clear away for the lead with a half lap to the checked flag.
The retired, unretired Almirola would take home the win in the second duel.
“Yeah, I did have my hands full. Drew said this Smithfield Ford Mustang was going to be fast, but he said I would probably have my hands full. We kind of went for it in qualifying and put on the speed in the car sacrificed some handling, and as you could see tonight it was a handful, but, man, this is so cool.” Said Almirola
“Daytona is such a special place to me. I've grew up sitting in those grandstands dreaming about racing here. I want that one on Sunday, though. My boss up in the booth during that first Duel, he said, I've won this race three times, but yet to do it on Sunday. I know Sunday is the big one. We're going to keep focused on that one. The job is not finished.” Continued Almirola
Duel 2 top-five finishers: Almirola Cindric Elliott Keselowski and Lajoie.