Aric Almirola and Ford Performance Take Daytona Duel 1, Duel 2 Delayed by Rain

Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL — February 11, 2021

Alex Bowman(48) won the pole for the Daytona 500 yesterday evening with a speed of 191.261 mph (47.056 sec). Bowman’s teammate, William Byron, will start beside him on the front row after posting a time a quarter of a second slower, 47.314 sec.

They are the only two drivers who know where they will start in Sunday’s “Great American Race.” The remainder of the field will be determined tonight in the Bluegreen Vacations Duels. Two races, 150 miles each, with the starters divided according to how they qualified. The odd-numbered positions in Duel 1, even-numbered qualifiers in Duel 2.

NASCAR guarantees 36 cars an entry to every event over the course of the season, those spots go to its “charter” holding teams. Eight drivers are vying for the 4 remaining starting positions, so four teams will pack up and leave after tonight’s event as the field is limited to 40 race cars. One driver in each race qualifies on speed, the other qualifies by racing his way in.

Duel 1

At the drop of the green flag, the field remained two by two for the first lap with Aric Almirola(10) just getting the nose of his Ford Mustang in front of Bowman as they returned to the start/finish line. Impatience brought the three-wide on quickly and the shuffle for positions began.

Daniel Suarez(99) took a turn at the front. Christopher Bell(20) and Almirola traded the top spot until, fellow Ford Mustang driver, Joey Logano(22) tucked in behind Almirola and established a two-car tandem to pull away.

The Fords of Michael McDowell(34), Matt DiBenedetto(21), and Ryan Newman(6) made it a five-car lead train and ultimately turned the multi-car wide racing into a single file line front to rear.

Ryan Preece(37), one of the non-charter contenders, secured a spot in the 500 based on his speed in qualifying. Leaving one sport for Austin Cindric(33), Timmy Hill(66), and Ty Dillon(96).

Pit Stops

The Fords all pitted together with 26 laps to go, as team orders lined up stops by manufacturer. Pit service consisted of fuel only. After cycling through their stops, four Fords sat at the front of the field. Almirola, Logano, DiBenedetto, and Newman were the leaders.

Bowman developed an engine issue and spent three laps in the pits. He returned to the track but complained of a vibration. If his motor can be repaired after the race, no problem. If Bowman’s crew has to install a new engine, he will be forced to vacate his front-row starting position and move to the rear of the pack for the start of the 500. But, better for the problem to show itself in this race than the

With 10 laps to go, Ty Dillon sits safely in the transfer spot running 5th. His challengers, Cindric and Hill, run 17th and 18th respectively.

The Finish

As the laps wound down the pack made a run on the leaders, Almirola and Logano held off the surge. The white flag waved and everyone remained in line until Turn 4. Logano moved low and took the lead but could not get clear of Almirola who fought back on the high side and crossed the line first for the win.

Almirola takes the Checkered Flag in Duel 1 from Daytona International Speedway / NASCAR Photo

The unsuccessful run by Logano cost him two positions as Bell and Newman moved past and improved their starting positions for Sunday. In a quirk of Daytona Qualifying rules, Ryan Preece passed Ty Dillon on the last lap costing him a spot in the 500 giving the transfer position to Austin Cindric based on his qualifying time. Preece was set to make the start based on his qualifying speed, but because he raced his way in the fastest qualifier among the other 3 drivers was Cindric. Dillon had a chance to block Preece as they entered the tri-oval on the final lap, but he did not grab the spot. Preece beat him to the line by inches, an interval of 38/100s of a second sent Dillon packing.

Almirola’s post-race interview brought out the fact that he is a Tampa native. “Things are going right for Tampa Bay, right Clint Bowyer” cajoled Almirola. Jabbing at Bowyer, the Kansas City native, now in the Fox Broadcast booth, about the results of Super Bowl LV.

Defending 500 Champion Denny Hamlin, ran out of gas on the last lap and finished 13th. He coasted across the finish line and then turned the wrong way down pit road, hopped out of the car, and pushed it back to his pit for post-race inspection and a splash of Sunoco racing fuel.

Results of the Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 at Daytona

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 10 Aric Almirola 60
2 20 Christopher Bell 0.041 60
3 6 Ryan Newman 0.154 60
4 22 Joey Logano 0.181 60
5 37 $ Ryan Preece 0.209 60
6 96 * Ty Dillon 0.247 60
7 5 Kyle Larson 0.311 60
8 99 Daniel Suarez 0.318 60
9 34 Michael McDowell 0.405 60
10 77 Jamie McMurray 0.428 60
11 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 0.984 60
12 21 Matt DiBenedetto 4.98 60
13 11 Denny Hamlin 7.439 60
14 41 Cole Custer 13.833 60
15 8 Tyler Reddick 47.949 60
16 33 $ Austin Cindric -1 59
17 43 Erik Jones -1 59
18 0 Quin Houff -2 58
19 66 * Timmy Hill -3 57
20 48 Alex Bowman -4 56
21 51 Cody Ware -4 56
22 52 Josh Bilicki -46 14

$ Qualified for the Daytona 500 / * Out of the Daytona 500

Duel 2

No sooner had crews pushed the cars running in Duel 2 to their starting position on pit road than the skies opened up and drenched the speedway. After a two-hour+ delay to dry the track, Duel 2 got underway with William Byron on the pole and Bubba Wallace(23) in the new Michael Jordan/Denny Hamlin race team.

David Ragan(36), Kaz Grala(16), Garrett Smithley(13), and Noah Gragson(62) will try to race their way into the 500 in this event. Ragan is the fastest qualifier of the group with Grala 2nd fastest. Smithley and Gragson can only get in by being the highest finisher of the four.

Byron got a huge jump on the start and moved up in front of Wallace in Turn 1. Back at the start/finish line, Wallace was in front. But not for long, Byron drove past and began to stretch the front of the field out into single-file racing. Austin Dillon(3), Kevin Harvick(4), Chase Elliott(9), and Kurt Busch(1) made up the Top 5.

Ryan Blaney(12) drove into the Top 5 to join up with Harvick, then when Brad Keselowski(2) came along and made it a trio. They were able to push the Ford Mustangs to the front.

Harvick swapped the lead with Wallace and then with Byron as the pole-sitter returned to the front.

On lap 35 Chase Brisco(14) spun coming off Turn 2 and collected Gragson, Anthony Alfredo(38), Smithley, and BJ McLeod(78) bringing out the 1st caution of the evening.

After pit stops Blaney and Harvick lead the pack to the restart with 20 laps to go. Blaney started on the high side and dropped down in front of Harvick after taking the green flag. But, they were not able to pull away, and lead swapping began again.

The racing is much more aggressive in this Duel than in the first one. While Byron appears to have the fastest car, the fight for every position behind him changes multiple times per lap.

The Finish

With a push from the Fords of Harvick, Keselowski, and Blaney, Martin Truex Jr.(19) took over the top spot. Harvick passed, but when the other two tried to follow Truex was able to re-establish the lead. A lap later with four to go the big one happened.

Keselowski and Smithley got together at the end of the tri-oval and multiple cars joined the melee. 24 42 62 Byron, one of the front row cars may join his teammate Bowman at the rear of the field. the damage to his race car looks unrepairable and will likely force him into their backup machine. Ross Chastain(42) and Noah Gragson were also towed to the garage.

The race went to overtime with Truex, Wallace, Kyle Busch, Dillon, and Kurt Busch the Top 5. Truex built a big lead down the backstretch. Wallace and Dillon led the two lines following. Truex unsure which lane to block got caught in the middle and dropped to the rear of the lead pack.

Wallace went to the lead, Dillon caught and passed him. The two bumped coming through the tri-oval and Dillon was able to push his car under the checkered flag first. Truex finished 12th.

David Ragan raced his way in allowing Kaz Grala to make his 1st Daytona 500 based on his qualifying time.

Results of the Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 at Daytona

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 3 Austin Dillon 63
2 23 Bubba Wallace 0.057 63
3 4 Kevin Harvick 0.131 63
4 18 Kyle Busch 0.156 63
5 9 Chase Elliott 0.228 63
6 12 Ryan Blaney 0.254 63
7 7 Corey LaJoie 0.382 63
8 36 $ David Ragan 0.495 63
9 1 Kurt Busch 0.527 63
10 17 Chris Buescher 0.756 63
11 2 Brad Keselowski 0.820 63
12 19 Martin Truex Jr. 0.933 63
13 53 Joey Gase 4.960 63
14 16 $ Kaz Grala 9.530 63
15 14 Chase Briscoe -2 61
16 13 * Garrett Smithley -2 61
17 15 Derrike Cope -4 59
18 62 * Noah Gragson -7 56
19 24 William Byron -7 56
20 42 Ross Chastain -7 56
21 38 Anthony Alfredo -28 35
22 78 BJ McLeod -28 35

$ Qualified for the Daytona 500 / * Out of the Daytona 500

The Starting Line-up for The 63rd Daytona 500

1st – Alex Bowman
2nd – William Byron
3rd – Aric Almirola*
4th – Austin Dillon
5th – Christopher Bell
6th – Bubba Wallace
7th – Ryan Newman*
8th – Kevin Harvick*
9th – Joey Logano*
10th – Kyle Busch
11th – Ryan Preece
12th – Chase Elliott
13th – Kyle Larson
14th – Ryan Blaney*
15th – Daniel Suarez
16th – Corey LaJoie
17th – Michael McDowell*
18th – David Ragan*
19th – Jamie McMurray
20th – Kurt Busch
21st – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
22nd – Chris Buescher*
23rd – Matt DiBenedetto*
24th – Brad Keselowski*
25th – Denny Hamlin
26th – Martin Truex Jr.
27th – Cole Custer*
28th – Joey Gase*
29th – Tyler Reddick
30th – Chase Briscoe*
31st – Erik Jones
32nd – Derrike Cope
33rd – Quin Houff
34th – Ross Chastain
35th – Cody Ware
36th – Anthony Alfredo*
37th – Josh Bilicki*
38th – B.J. McLeod*
39th – Austin Cindric*
40th – Kaz Grala

*Ford Mustang Drivers