Rain seemed to be a minor setback for the first Bluegreens Vacations Duel at Daytona International Speedway but the drivers did not hold anything back as it became a massive dogfight at the end between the leaders. Joey Logano held off pole-sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to win Duel 1. As a result, it gives him 10 points and a starting position of third for this weekend’s Daytona 500.
“It feels so good,” Logano stated. “I mean, obviously it’s the Duels, not the Daytona 500, but momentum is momentum.”
“This is awesome, he added. “What great teamwork by the Ford’s, especially Aric Almirola, my goodness. He was a great pusher at the right time and we were able to hold off the bottom when we needed and hold off the Chevy’s and showed the speed that the Ford’s have here. That is something I am proud to be a part of. I am proud to be driving that Blue Oval and these Roush Yates motors. We are ready to rock and roll. I can’t wait for the 500.”
Stenhouse led the way early on until he and the other Chevys pitted on Lap 23, beginning the cycle of green-flag pit stops.
A lap later the Toyotas would enter pit lane, but not all were free of trouble.
Martin Truex Jr. and rookie Christopher Bell made contact, causing the No. 19 to miss his pit stall. Daniel Suarez, who was racing his way in, would lose the draft of the Toyotas.
While the Chevys and Toyotas pitted, the Fords stayed out on track, with Clint Bowyer leading the group. However, as they entered pit lane, a caution would come out when Suarez and Ryan Blaney collided off of Turn 4.
Suarez, who had just finished his pit stop, was on the inside line. Trying to check up for Brad Keselowski’s car, Suarez’s No. 96 slid up, while Ryan Blaney was trying to pit from the outside line, causing a crash.
Blaney accepted the blame for the contact, saying, “It was just an error on my part and kind of a little lack of communication that didn’t end well.”
The wreck resulted in massive front end damage to Suarez’s Toyota. Blaney received right-side damage to his No.12 Ford Mustang. Suarez’s chances of making the 500 came to an end, while Blaney kept on going.
Many of the Fords that had committed to pit lane did not take service due to the caution, but Bowyer and Chris Buescher took service and both received an end of the longest line penalty.
Stenhouse would lead on the restart, but things would get heated up as Logano would challenge the No. 47 for the lead with help from Almirola. With Logano taking over, the field calmed down and stayed mostly single file until the 10 lap to go mark, guarding the inside line. It became a Ford top six consisting of Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing and Roush Fenway cars.
At first, Keselowski formed an outside line, but the leaders migrated upward to block the outside line. Stenhouse was thinking otherwise. The No. 47 went down to the bottom and made huge runs on the leaders with help from the inside line. Stenhouse would steal some laps from Logano and it became a drag race between him and the No. 22.
Stenhouse’s momentum would stall out as Almirola would shove Logano, creating a massive gap ahead of the main pack. With runs coming left and right, Logano blocked both lanes to win. Logano, who led 19 laps in the event, will get 10 points, giving him a head start in the standings.
Almirola would finish second, with Newman, Keselowski, and Bubba Wallace Jr. rounding out the top five. Pole sitter Stenhouse finished eighth.
Rookie Bell would finish ninth in his first-ever Duel.
Due to Suarez’s crash, Reed Sorenson would make it into the Daytona 500 with an 18th place finish. Chad Finchum would not qualify for the main event, as he finished 20th in the Duel.
There were 11 lead changes and only one caution for seven laps.