Last Lap Passes Close Out the Daytona 500 Qualifying Races

Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell each led one lap of their individual qualifying races. The final one! as they post wins in the Bluegreen Vacations Duels at Daytona International Speedway.

Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL — February 14, 2024

No other NASCAR race has the type of challenge that qualifying for the Daytona 500 presents. With 40 starting spots available in the “Great American Race,” single-car qualifying only accounts for the two front-row positions. The remainder of the field is set according to how drivers perform in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying races.

Two races to determine who gets to race on Sunday and who goes home without a ticket to the biggest event of the season. The four drivers on the bubble that will have to race their way into the 500 via the Duels are 7-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion and Hall of Famer Jimmie Johnson(84), along with Kaz Grala(36), J.J. Yeley(44), and B.J. McLeod(78).

A total of 42 teams registered to compete and 36 of those teams are automatically locked in because they own NASCAR “franchises.” Two teams, Anthony Alfredo(62) and David Ragan(60), booked a position in the field based on qualifying times Wednesday night. So the pressure is really on for those looking for the final two spots available. But, in reality, the pressure is intense for everyone.

Joey Logano(22) and Michael McDowell(34) own the front row in their Ford Dark Horse Mustangs. They don’t want to get involved in an incident that would take those premier starting spots away. The four non-franchised drivers don’t want to be the two non-qualifiers who will miss the show. And everyone else wants as good a starting position as possible for their shot at becoming a Daytona 500 Champion. It’s one of the things that make the season opener at Daytona International Speedway such an exciting event. The 66th running sold out last summer. Do you want to be here in 2025? Go online and reserve your tickets NOW.

Bluegreen Vacations Duel Race One

Race one features the pole sitter Logano. The battle to advance to the 500 between Jimmie Johnson(84) and JJ Yeley(44) goes off in race one also. Three of the four Hendrick’s drivers are in Duel One. Kyle Larson(5), Chase Elliott(9), and Alex Bowman(48). Michigan’s Erik Jones starts in the 12th position in the iconic #43 of 7-time Daytona 500 and 7-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Richard Petty.

Kyle Larson led lap one with a push from Austin Dillon(3), and the duo dropped down in front of Logano as the field remained double-wide all the way around the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

By lap five, Erik Jones had moved to the top spot. Jones has one win at Daytona, the 2018 Coke Zero Sugar 400, his first Cup-series checkered flag. Last year’s 500 winner, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47), held the lead early. Corey LaJoie(7) took a turn at the front.

With 15 laps in the books, Joey Logano had slipped to the rear of the lead pack. After winning the pole Wednesday night, Logano asked his crew chief, Paul Wolfe, if they were going to use the Duel to test or to race. Wolfe’s response? Race.

Logano drives for Team Penske. Roger Penske has never had a car sit on the pole for the Daytona 500. His instructions to the #22 team? Learn everything you can from the 60-lap qualifying race. But make sure that car sits on the pole Sunday. Yes, sir, boss!

Martin Truex Jr.(19) has never won a Daytona 500. He would like a good starting spot for Sunday’s race. With help from Larson, Truex drove to the front and they pulled Jimmie Johnson with them in the third spot.

Pit Stops

A stop for Sunoco Racing fuel is required to complete the 150-mile distance of a Duel race. Fuel economy for a full tank is estimated at 40 laps, depending on how much time you spend in the draft.

Johnson, Jones, Ty Gibbs(54), and Tyler Reddick(45) were the first drivers to pit on lap 40. Dillon and Stenhouse stopped on the next lap. Most of the Chevrolets pitted on lap 44, with the Fords coming down pit road on lap 45.

The draft had reformed by lap 47 with Larson, Daniel Suarez(99), Elliott, Bowman, and Logano as the top five.

The caution waved on lap 49 when the field checked up in turn four when a car got sideways. Dillon, Daniel Hemric(31), Stenhouse, and Jimmy Johnson were involved.

Hemric received the most damage, with his car coming to rest at the bottom of the track. The damage to the other cars was minor. Logano was moving to the rear of the pack to protect his car and just missed the incident.

Johnson pitted for repairs and fresh tires tires. He restarted in 18th place. The driver he must pass to make the field is JJ Yeley, who restarted in 14th with six laps to go.

Johnson caught Yeley with four laps to go and drew even across the start/finish line with three laps to go. Yeley was in front when the white flag waved.

Coming to the checkered flag, Yeley drove high out of turn four. Johnson took the middle lane and just squeezed by to take the position away from Yeley.

JJ Yeley just misses out on qualifying for the Daytona 500 / Lasco Press Photo

Out front, Chase Elliott pushed Tyler Reddick to the win. Erik Jones finished fifth, and Joey Logano was the highest-finishing Ford in seventh. Safely through the final laps and on the pole for the Daytona 500.

Results of the Bluegreen Vacations Duel Race One

1 45 Tyler Reddick 60
2 9 Chase Elliott 0.056 60
3 48 Alex Bowman 0.155 60
4 77 Carson Hocevar 0.173 60
5 43 Erik Jones 0.220 60
6 99 Daniel Suarez 0.263 60
7 22 Joey Logano* 0.311 60
8 54 Ty Gibbs 0.325 60
9 5 Kyle Larson 0.356 60
10 17 Chris Buescher* 0.386 60
11 1 Ross Chastain 0.398 60
12 84 Jimmie Johnson 0.456 60
13 41 Ryan Preece* 0.485 60
14 19 Martin Truex Jr. 0.519 60
15 7 Corey LaJoie 0.581 60
16 44 JJ Yeley 0.606 60
17 38 Todd Gilliland* 1.190 60
18 3 Austin Dillon 9.334 60
19 62 Anthony Alfredo -1 59
20 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -9 51
21 31 Daniel Hemric -11 49

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Bluegreen Vacations Duel Race Two

Michael McDowell leads the second Duel to the green flag. The race features the defending NASCAR Cup Series Champion, Ryan Blaney(12). Kyle Busch(8) and three-time Daytona 500 Champion Denny Hamlin(11). Michigan’s Brad Keselowski(6) starts at the rear of the pack after a poor qualifying effort. Josh Berry(4) is making his debut in the Stewart Haas Racing Mustang after Kevin Harvick moved to the Fox Broadcast booth after last season.

Kaz Grala and BJ McLeod will battle it out for the final spot in Sunday’s race.

It took four laps for the double-wide pack to form after McDowell tried to run away and hide early. Kyle Busch pushed William Byron(24) past the leader, and they pulled down to the bottom line of the track while Riley Herbst made a run in the top lane to lead lap 10.

Herbst and Byron traded the lead until AJ Allmendinger drove to the front on lap 14. Bubba Wallace(23) pushed Herbst back out front while Noah Gragson(10) pulled the inside line up even. Gragson is now in the #10 car after Aric Almirola exited the Stewart-Haas Ford Mustang at the end of last season.

Wallace, who always seems to run well at Daytona, took some laps at the front of the field. At the halfway point of the race, McLeod was running in the fifth spot while Grala trailed the field in 20th.

Pit Stops

In what looks to be the standard for the 500, teams pitted en masse by manufacturer. The Toyotas on lap 41, the Fords on lap 42 and 43, while the Chevrolets were mixed in with both of their competitors.

The draft reformed very fast with the Fords of McDowell, Gragson, and Austin Cindric(2) out front.

While Race One avoided a serious incident. Just like last year, Race Two featured the “big one,” with cars crashing in the tri-oval, forcing NASCAR to red-flag the event on lap 47.

Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Gragson, Blaney, Herbst, Harrison Burton(21), Wallace, Justin Haley(51), and McLeod were caught up in the mess.

Busch, Blaney, Gragson, and Herbst were retired from the event. BJ McLeod was able to return to the pits for repairs to his car. Will he be able to catch up to Grala as they restart 11th and seventh, respectively?

Josh Berry’s car did not restart when the red flag was lifted, ultimately putting him out of the race.

McDowell and Hamlin jockeyed for the lead at the front. Hamlin had his teammate Christopher Bell(20) pushing him. McDowell had a fellow Ford driver, Cindric, on his rear bumper.

As the laps wound down, the pushing at the front picked up. McDowell took himself out of the mix, opting to keep his front-row starting Mustang intact. Bell made a late move around Hamlin to take the win. Cindric pushed a fellow Ford driver, Harrison Burton, high to lock down the second position.

Christopher Bell wins the Bluegreen Vacations Duel Race Two / Lasco Press Photo

Kaz Grala held off a charge by McLeod to be the final car in the Daytona 500 field.

Results of the Bluegreen Vacations Duel Race Two

1 20 Christopher Bell 60
2 2 Austin Cindric* 0.113 60
3 11 Denny Hamlin 0.199 60
4 42 John Hunter Nemechek 0.400 60
5 21 Harrison Burton* 0.402 60
6 71 Zane Smith 0.485 60
7 6 Brad Keselowski* 0.491 60
8 24 William Byron 0.560 60
9 14 Chase Briscoe* 0.590 60
10 51 Justin Haley* 0.592 60
11 23 Bubba Wallace 0.642 60
12 36 Kaz Grala* 0.649 60
13 16 AJ Allmendinger 0.658 60
14 78 BJ McLeod 0.716 60
15 60 David Ragan* 0.742 60
16 34 Michael McDowell* 7.027 60
17 4 Josh Berry* -12 48
18 12 Ryan Blaney* -13 47
19 8 Kyle Busch -13 47
20 15 Riley Herbst* -13 47
21 10 Noah Gragson* -13 47

*Ford Mustang Drivers