DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Joey Logano won a thrilling first Bluegreen Vacations Duels in Daytona on Thursday night while William Byron was victorious in the second 150-mile qualifying race.
But, with 300 miles in overall racing at the World Center of Speed on Thursday, what are the main takeaways?
Winner Sunday Will Need Drafting Help, Likely In The Form of Tandem
Pole sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had the best car in the first 150-mile Twin as he could as Joey Logano said put his car anywhere on track and succeed. Stenhouse, led a race-high 26 of 60 laps but would only finish eighth in the end.
See, Stenhouse was up front battling for the victory on the final lap even. He led Laps 58 and 59 across the finish line, but on the final 2.5-miles, he was bumrushed by a foursome of Ford’s and shuffled back.
Logano, with big drafting help from Aric Almirola was pushed to victory. Almirola, with an assist would come home second. Two more Ford’s locked onto them and finished third (Ryan Newman) and fourth (Brad Keselowski) respectively.
Stenhouse, didn’t have any friends up front and even fell behind two more Chevy drivers (Bubba Wallace -5th, Austin Dillon – 6th) as they hooked up behind and tandemed their way forward.
Same thing happened in Race No. 2. Kevin Harvick dominated and led a race high 34 of 60 laps. He led with three laps-to-go with drafting help from Matt DiBenedetto behind. Think of them like Logano and Almirola. The problem for them was, Logano and Almirola had Newman and Keselowski as pushers too. Harvick and DiBenedetto had no one else.
Same for Kyle Busch. He only had Erik Jones to help but that’s it. The field left them out to dry just as they did to their teammate Denny Hamlin in the first Duel and they dropped back.
Chevy had two Hendrick cars, three Ganassi cars including their alliance with Spire and two RCR cars including the one with the alliance with German. That’s seven on two.
It worked. Byron, with a push from his teammate Jimmie Johnson led the final three laps and won his first Cup Series race at Daytona.
It says, in the end, you’ll need drafting help from manufacturers to get to the front, then need to tandem on the last lap to win. But, will the second car in the tandem be a good manufacturer teammate and push the car in front to the win or make a move on their own with a Daytona 500 win staring them in their eyes?
The point above is relevant here as two of the three open cars that are heading home from Daytona in not making the show are Toyota’s. That leaves with the four JGR cars and the one at Leavine Family Racing as the only Toyota’s in the race on Sunday.
Chevrolet had 19 cars and Ford 16. With how well they worked together on Thursday night, expect Sunday to be rough for the Toyota’s.
“Big 3” Shine Still
Since 2005, Hendrick, Gibbs and Penske have won all but 17 combined raced during Daytona Speedweeks. Furthermore, they’ve won all but five races here overall in February since 2013.
They are 3-for-3 during this Speedweeks.
JGR won last Sunday’s Busch Clash (Erik Jones) while Penske (Logano) and Hendrick (Byron) won the Duels on Thursday.
That gives the trio of organizations 14 wins in the last 15 Duels too. Penske, has won three straight years and HMS six since 2013.
We knew it would likely be this way and it was on Thursday. Both races had just one caution flag fly, each for a crash involving an open car and the rest full of green flag action.
This was the ninth time in the last 10 Duels to be run to completion in under an hour. That’s also happened in 14 of the last 18 Duels overall.
The longest Duel since 2009 was 1-hour, 8-minutes and 25-seconds in 2009.
The last four Duels ran in 50-minutes and 38-seconds (Duel 1 2019), 46-minutes and 36-seconds (Duel 2 2019), 54-minutes and nine seconds (Duel 1 2020) and 52-minutes and 37-seconds (Duel 2 2020).
After the crash fest at the end of last Sunday’s Busch Clash, the two 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday night were supposed to be tame. Drivers were expected to line up on the high line around the banking of the Daytona International Speedway early and often.
Instead, it wasn’t until Lap 10 of the first Duel and Lap 19 of the second Duel for cars to settle down and go single file.
The first Duel would calm a bit until pit stops, but following the Lap 30 caution, it was thrilling to the end.
The second Duel would go the same way and shape up a great finish for the victory as well.
The margin of victory in the first Duel was just 0.172-seconds. The margin in the second Duel was 0.117-seconds.
First through 15th in Duel 1 was separated by only .805-seconds while 1st through 13th in the second Duel was just .660-seconds at the finish line.