The field has been officially set for the Daytona 500. It was a night where people are fighting for a spot and for a better starting position in the Daytona 500. Last night was a night where I saw a little bit of everything from action-packed racing to drivers fighting for the chance to race on Sunday at the World Center of Racing.
Aric Almirola Takes Duel Race 1
The first Duel race at Daytona was a battle to the end. However, it was a rough night for Alex Bowman. With 29 laps remaining, he came to pit road with engine issues. Bowman finished four laps down in 20th. The big news, however, is that even with a significant vibration it can be fixed and the engine will not be changed. This means he can keep his starting spot at first in the Daytona 500. The race came down to the wire as Aric Almirola won the first race. Almirola battled Joey Logano to the line but Christopher Bell had a huge run which led to the side-by-side finish at the line.
Of the three drivers attempting to make their way to the Daytona 500, Austin Cindric advanced. He was able to advance based on his qualifying speed. He was the fastest of the drivers who didn’t lock into the 500 on Wednesday. As a result of this, Ty Dillon and Timmy Hill did not qualify for the Daytona 500 and will miss Sunday’s race.
Austin Dillon Wins Race 2
Following Duel 1 was supposed to be the second race. Even though the second race happened, fans were forced to wait a while for it to start. The rain came and it delayed the start of the second Duel at Daytona. During the drying of the track, the air titan actually spun out drying the track. But nonetheless, the track drying was complete and around 11:15 local time, the second race had begun.
It was a race where these drivers were not playing conservatively. These guys were going for the win. Sadly, their competitive spirit caused issues. With 25 laps remaining, a crash occurred at the exit of turn two. This wreck involved Kaz Grala (an open driver), Ross Chastain, rookie Chase Briscoe, Anthony Alfredo, and BJ McLeod. Alfredo and McLeod were knocked out of the race.
As things came down to the wire, with four laps remaining another crash occurred. This wreck was a result of Garrett Smithley‘s aggressive driving and Brad Keselowski not seeing Smithley make it three-wide. This wreck involved William Byron, Brad Keselowski, Garrett Smithley (opener), Noah Gragson (opener), and Ross Chastain. On the last lap, Austin Dillon battled Bubba Wallace Jr., and side by side to the line Austin Dillon won the second race. As a result of the late-race incident, Kaz Grala was the only opener remaining and he has advanced to the Daytona 500 while Garrett Smithley and Noah Gragson have been eliminated.
After an action-packed night, there is a lot to digest now. The field is officially set for the 500. The crashes will force plenty of cars to start in the back. This will cause a big shakeup in the starting lineup for the Great American Race. With these races being complete, the next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is the Daytona 500. This race will be Sunday afternoon on Fox and can be heard on the Motor Racing Network.