DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Four days ago, Joey Logano was the name brought up as the scapegoat for all the drama in the Busch Clash. Logano, made several unnecessary blocking moves with 10 laps remaining in last Sunday’s All-Star race and sparked a big crash existing Turn 4. His teammate Brad Keselowski was among those collected in the accident as Keselowski voiced his displeasures with his Team Penske teammate for his “dumb, dumb move.”
Well, on Thursday night, it was Logano making all the right moves, as for the second consecutive year, the Connecticut native was celebrating in victory lane following a Duels victory at the Daytona International Speedway.
Logano, battled up front for the lead over the following 24 laps en route to his second career Duels victory in his No. 22 Ford.
Logano, led 14 laps when he cleared Austin Dillon for the lead on Lap 43 and would remain there until Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got by on Lap 58. Stenhouse, with drafting help from Denny Hamlin, had all the momentum until Logano got bigger drafting help on the top line of the 2.5-mile superspeedway from fellow Ford drivers Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski.
Here are the main takeaways from the first Duel on Thursday night.
Team Penske has only won five career Duels here at Daytona in the course of their entire storied career. But, three of those five have come in the last three years though. Ryan Blaney won a Duel in 2018 and Joey Logano now in each of the last two years.
Penske, is becoming one of the better Duel teams.
“Big 3 Still The Dominating Teams In Speedweeks
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 as between the trio of teams now, they’ve won 13 of the last 14 Duels in Daytona. Hendrick and Gibbs each have five trips to victory lane a piece too.
Ford’s Show Strength
Ford’s have been the ones to beat lately on superspeedway’s, especially the Duels. On Thursday night, Ford’s plan worked to perfection and with Logano’s victory, it gave them their fourth Duel win in the last five tries. On top of that, Ford finished 1-2-3-4 in Duel No. 1 and did so with three different organizations. They now know that despite Chevrolet having a front row lockout, Ford will have four drivers at the very least starting in the top 10 of Sunday’s Daytona 500.
That’s good news too, because the last eight years have seen the Daytona 500 winner come from the first 7 Rows? In fact, its actually happened 10 times since 2008.
The weird thing is, since 2001, we haven’t actually seen the Daytona 500 winner come from the front row. So, if you finish in the top seven in your Duel, you have a much greater chance of winning the ‘500 on Sunday.
We knew heading in that the two Duels Thursday night should wrap up fairly quickly. 8 of the last 9 Duels now have run to completion in less than one hour including 13 of the last 17. 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 seven seconds.
Watch Out For Newman
Ryan Newman is always a sleeper in Daytona. The Rocket has four top eight finishes in his last five points paying Daytona tries. Well, he finished third in his Duel on Thursday night and will roll off seventh as a result of that for the Daytona 500.
“Hopefully I Don’t Get An Assist On Sunday”
Aric Almirola was the biggest reason as to why Joey Logano was celebrating in victory lane in the first Duel on Thursday night. Almirola, gave Logano the ultimate drafting help over the final handful of laps to ensure Ford went to victory lane for the fourth time in the last five Duels.
When told of the assist for Logano, Almirola said that he hopes he’s not giving them away on Sunday. He wants to get the bucket, not the assist for the Daytona 500.
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.
Suarez Misses Daytona 500, Sorenson Is In
That left Suarez without many options for the 2020 season. Most of the top rides were already taken. Luckily, Gaunt Brothers had some funding with NASCAR’s sponsors and mix that with what Suarez already had and the No. 96 Toyota would run full time for the first time ever and Suarez would be their driver.
It was a good story. The Gaunt Brothers ride didn’t have a Charter, so with 43 cars here in Daytona this weekend, we know that three cars will go home. Suarez, had to race his way into the show.
Early on in his Duel on Thursday night, Suarez looked well on his way into racing his way into Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN). Suarez, moved up from his 19th starting spot to inside of the top 10 before the first round of pit stops ensued on Lap 24.
Unfortunately, the Ford’s decided to pit without much communication, so when they all slowed down to pit, Suarez had no where to go and got into Ryan Blaney heading into the tri-oval at the Daytona International Speedway.
“There was no communication. All the sudden the 2 car slowed down to pit and I either hit him or make a move to go around and we crashed,” a dejected Suarez said. “I just want to go home.”
The Ford’s admitted it was a bad mistake on their end too. Credit that to spotty internet here in Daytona at the race track and the newness of the crew chief and driver changes at Penske for 2020.
“That was dumb on my part trying to pit,” Blaney said of the incident. “I didn’t know we were pitting.”
His crew chief Todd Gordon took responsibility for that incident too.
“Yeah we didn’t communicate that well as a group. The internet down here is suspect at best.”
In turn, it leaves Suarez out of the Daytona 500 for the first time of his career as his storybook movie comes to an end early. Remember, Penske announced just this past January that they’re going to change crew chiefs for all three drivers. That move could have cost Suarez a Daytona 500 start. The communication isn’t quite there yet and it showed on their first pit stop of the Duels.
As a result of this, Reed Sorenson who finished the race a lap down advances to the Daytona 500.
Duels No. 1 Results
- 22 Logano
- 10 Almirola
- 6 Newman
- 2 Keselowski
- 43 Wallace Jr.
- 3 ADillon
- 19 Truex Jr.
- 47 Stenhouse Jr.
- 95 Bell R
- 17 Buescher
- 11 Hamlin
- 38 Nemechek R
- 9 Elliott
- 12 Blaney
- 14 Bowyer
- 37 Preece
- 16 Haley
- 27 Sorenson -1
- 00 Houff R -2
- 49 Finchum -4
- 51 Gase -4
- 96 Suarez OUT