NASCAR Cup Series

Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon split Bluegreen Vacations Duel wins at Daytona

NASCAR Wire Service

BLUEGREEN VACATIONS DUEL 2

Austin Dillon edged out Bubba Wallace coming to the finish line to win the second Bluegreen Vacations Duel race in overtime late Thursday night, into Friday morning at Daytona International Speedway.

Wallace took the lead on the final lap and held it until the exit of Turn 4 when Dillon dove from the top lane to the bottom lane to get underneath Wallace’s No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota, gaining enough momentum in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to grab the victory, earning 10 points toward the regular-season standings.

RELATED: Daytona 500 lineup | Duel 2 race results

John Harrelson | Nigel Kinrade Photography

It is the first Daytona qualifying race Dillon has won and he did it leading the only two laps on the night, lap 33 and then the last lap (63). It was similar to what he did in winning the 2018 Daytona 500 in the famed Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet when he led only the last lap – finishing a quarter-second ahead of Wallace then too.

“I was talking to my spotter before the restart and he was like, ‘We’ve got the 4 (Kevin Harvick) behind us and he’s been pushing well all night.’ He had the 12 (Ryan Blaney in a Ford, like Harvick) so I knew the manufacturer thing was going to be tough,” Dillon said. “I made a decent block on the backstretch and just a heckuva push through (Turns) 3 and 4. I knew Bubba was going to try and block, but I just whipped the wheel and it worked out well.”

Wallace held on for second place, followed by Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott to round out the top five.

A crash with three laps remaining brought out the second caution of the race to set up the overtime battle. The wreck occurred when Garrett Smithley, who had to race his way into the Daytona 500, and Brad Keselowski came together going into Turn 1. Daytona 500 front-row starter William Byron was also involved and received significant damage on his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Others collected included Ross Chastain in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Noah Gragson in the No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet.

Gragson, who also needed to race his way in, retired from the race and will miss the Daytona 500 in his first attempt.

The calamity worked out for David Ragan, who raced his way into Sunday’s race with an eighth-place result. Ragan was already locked in with the second-fastest Open car speed from Wednesday night’s single-car qualifying session. Ragan’s finish therefore meant Kaz Grala in the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet earned the final spot up for grabs.

Grala was initially involved in an earlier crash on Lap 36 involving Anthony Alfredo, Chase Briscoe and Smithley. Rookie Briscoe lost control of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford at the exit of Turn 2. Alfredo, a rookie in the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford, and McLeod in the new No. 78 Live Fast Motorsports Ford were unable to continue, but both were previously locked into the race as members of Charter teams.

NASCAR Cup Series drivers will be on track next for the Daytona 500’s second practice Saturday at 9:30 a.m. ET on FS2.

BLUEGREEN VACATIONS DUEL 1

Aric Almirola held off a hard charge from Joey Logano coming to the checkered flag to win Thursday night’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway.

Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, led 52 of the 60-lap qualifying race for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

RELATED: Duel 1 race results

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell passed Logano coming to the finish line to finish second, followed by Ryan Newman, Logano and Ryan Preece to round out the top five.

Preece edged Ty Dillon by a scant .04 seconds at the finish line to race his way into the Daytona 500. That gave reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric a starting bid based on qualifying speed – despite his 16th-place finish in the Duel due to a pit-road speeding penalty – and sent Ty Dillon home. Three of the four transfer positions were then evident after the first Duel – with Preece, Cindric and David Ragan (who qualified on speed). Another will be determined in the second Duel.

“First of all, I get the bonehead-of-the-race award for speeding on the last section of pit road when I nailed everything else the whole night that I didn’t know how to do,” Team Penske driver Cindric said of receiving a speeding penalty after a mid-race pit stop. “I’m obviously really happy to get the Verizon 5G Ford Mustang into the big show. Obviously, a lot for me left to learn, but racing on the biggest stage against the best drivers, it’s an amazing opportunity.”

The Fords – specifically Almirola – dominated Duel 1, spending most of the race bumper-to-bumper in varying order out front. Almirola and Logano, the 2015 Daytona 500 winner, spent a lot of time running 1-2. There were nine lead changes among five drivers. 

After the race, the Tampa, Florida, native Almirola smiled and mentioned the recent good run for Tampa sports – a nod to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl win last week.

“Great way to start Speedweeks,” Almirola said. “This thing is really fast and I can’t wait until Sunday.”

With 29 laps to go, Daytona 500 pole-sitter Alex Bowman reported to his No. 48 Chevrolet team that he felt like the engine was “blowing up,” but after the crew checked under the hood, he returned to the track. He finished 20th in the event.

Two-time defending Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, who is trying to become the first driver in history to win three consecutive versions of NASCAR’s Great American Race, finished 13th. He had to push his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota back into the pits after the race because he ran out of fuel on the final lap – after taking the white flag in fourth position.

NOTE: Both the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Austin Dillon and the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford of Aric Almirola passed post-race technical inspection Thursday night/Friday morning after winning the NASCAR Cup Series’ Bluegreen Vacations Duel races at the Daytona International Speedway. There were no other issues.

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