DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — William Byron, welcome back to victory lane at the World Center of Speed. Byron, was running around the top five coming to the end of Thursday night’s Bluegreen Vacations Duels at Daytona Race No. 2 and with five laps-to-go, he and the Chevrolet’s decided to go for it.
Byron, went from fifth to third to second and then to the lead with a push from drafting help from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson at the end to take the lead from Kevin Harvick on Lap 57 and would lead the final three laps en route to his first career NASCAR Cup Series win at the Daytona International Speedway.
Byron, also won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race in July 2017 here, but this was a move that the North Carolina native said that he watched past film on to know when to make the move and where to do it.
Jimmie Johnson finished second in his No. 48 Chevrolet while Kyle Larson gave Chevrolet a 1-2-3 sweep with a third place finish in his No. 42 Chevrolet.
Harvick, led a race-high 34 of 60 laps, would finish fourth in his No. 4 Ford while Matt DiBenedetto rounded out the top five in his No. 21 Ford.
Big 3 Favorites Still
Since 2005, Hendrick, Gibbs and Penske cars have combined to win all but 17 races during Daytona Speedweeks. Furthermore, they’ve won all but five races since 2013 at Daytona in February. They clearly were the ones to beat on Thursday night.
It showed too.
Joey Logano gave Penske their third win in the last three years in Duel No. 1 and William Byron giving Hendrick Motorsports their sixth Duels victory since 2013 as between the trio of teams now, they’ve won 14 of the last 15 Duels in Daytona.
We knew heading in that the two Duels Thursday night should wrap up fairly quickly. 9 of the last 10 Duels now have run to completion in less than one hour including 14 of the last 18. In fact, the longest Duel since 2009 came just last year in the first Duel which lasted 1-hour, 8-minutes and 25-seconds.
The two last year lasted 50-minutes and 38-seconds (Duel 1) and 46-minutes and 36-seconds (Duel 2). Tonight’s first Duel only lasted 54-minutes and nine seconds while the second was 52-minutes and 37 seconds in length.
Both Duels tonight had just one caution in each.
The Duels were supposed to be follow the leader, single file racing on Thursday night. After a crash fest at the end of Sunday’s Busch Clash, why run wild and open for a qualifying race and risk tearing up your Daytona 500 race car?
Well, the first eight laps of the first Duel were wild and saw side-by-side action throughout the field. It wasn’t until Lap 10 that the field went to the top of the banking near the SAFER Barrier’s in parade like fashion. But, 13 laps later pit stops would ensue, which made it a wild seven laps that ended with a Lap 30 crash when the Penske’s didn’t communicate their pit stops well and caused Daniel Suarez to wreck into Ryan Blaney as a result.
From there, we’d go back green on Lap 35 and saw wild side-by-side thrilling racing for the final 25 laps. We’d see 11 lead changes among six drivers in just 60 laps that saw a margin of victory of just 0.172-seconds.
15 cars were separated by just 0.805-seconds in the end.
In the second Duel, it took 19 laps for them to get single file as they’d run tamer than Duel 1 until the Lap 41 caution. Then, the final handful of laps, it was thrilling like the first Duel to give us much better action than we initially expected.
Chevy’s Gain Up On Ford’s/Toyota’s In This Duel
In Duel No. 1, the Ford’s gained up on the lone Chevrolet up front (Ricky Stenhouse Jr) at the end and finished 1-2-3-4. In the second Duel, the Toyota’s only had two cars up front (Kyle Busch and Erik Jones) while the Ford’s only had two (Kevin Harvick, Matt DiBenedetto) up front as well. Chevy, well they had three seven cars up front against them to use strength in numbers to bully their ways to the lead.
William Byron with help from Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson with help from Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain would give Chevy a 1-2-3 finish.
Harvick, said that he lost due to strength in numbers for Chevy’s advantage. Busch, had no drafting help and got ganged up on and would fade to a 13th place finish.
Duel No. 2 Results
- 24 Byron
- 48 Johnson
- 42 Larson
- 4 Harvick
- 41 Custer R
- 20 Jones
- 21 DiBenedetto
- 1 KuBusch
- 77 Chastain
- 8 Reddick R
- 13 TDillon
- 34 McDowell
- 18 KyBusch
- 36 Ragan
- 88 Bowman
- 66 Hill
- 62 Gaughan
- 15 Poole R -1
- 32 LaJoie -1
- 52 McLeod -3
- 54 Yeley OUT