DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – At the end of last season, Joey Logano hoisted the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy for the first time.
Thursday night he picked up right where he left off by winning a Daytona 500 qualifying race for the first time.
Logano executed a last-lap pass on Clint Bowyer to earn the victory in the second Gander RV Duel at Daytona Int’l Speedway, getting a shove from Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney entering turn one and dropping to the bottom with a full head of steam.
The No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford charged through the corner and Logano cleared Bowyer exiting turn two onto the backstretch and he never looked back.
Logano came back to the finish line uncontested and took the checkered flag in front by .126 of a second, keeping the Ford Mustang undefeated during the points-paying portion of Speedweeks.
“You have the whole race to think about a move like that when we’re all just out there waiting,” said Logano of his mindset during the closing laps. “There was a lot of anxiousness behind me. Everyone was really wanting to go and I just had to wait. The later you make that move, the less of a risk there is if it doesn’t work.
“I had a good run from the 12 (Blaney) behind me … and we went to the bottom and had a good run,” Logano continued. “We side-drafted the 10 (Aric Almirola), pulled him back and just barely got enough momentum to break that plane in front of the 14 (Bowyer) and clear him before we ran back to the finish line.”
After leading a race-high 41 laps, Bowyer fell back into a short scramble before charging back forward to finish second ahead of Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola.
The Emporia, Kan., native said there wasn’t much more he could have done to defend Logano’s move because of the rapid closing rate.
“I could’ve gone down there and blocked a little more, but Joey was coming really fast,” said Bowyer. “When you’re leading that chain like that, you can’t see the runs coming from behind you. All you can do is hear your spotter. Joey was the fourth car and came with a big run … and by the time he got to me, it was just one of those things. I really thought we’d be able to connect and get back up through.
“The good news is, we’ll start up front for the Daytona 500 and the car is still in one piece. The Mustangs are fast, too,” Bowyer added. “If the money were on the line for the Daytona 500, I’d have pulled down there and blocked him and tried to do whatever. He just had a massive run. … It wasn’t anybody’s fault.”
Denny Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Kurt Busch’s Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet completed the top five.
Ryan Blaney crossed the line in sixth, followed by Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Ty Dillon.
All three non-chartered entries in the second Duel finished off the lead lap, but it didn’t matter to Brendan Gaughan, who finished 15th to race his way into the Daytona 500 for Beard Motorsports.
Gaughan had to beat Casey Mears (17th) and Joey Gase (20th) to make it into the big show. Mears was able to fall back on his qualifying time from Sunday, and he’ll start 40th in the Great American Race.
Gase missed the Daytona 500 starting field along with Ryan Truex, who had a shot to fall back on his speed after the first Duel but was eliminated when Gaughan beat Mears in the second Duel.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.