Grid Spots Up For Grabs In Daytona Duel Qualifiers

0
296
Grid Spots Up For Grabs
The Bluegreen Vacations Duels take place Thursday night at Daytona Int'l Speedway. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The battle for starting position in Sunday’s 62nd annual Daytona 500 will take place Thursday night, under the lights at Daytona Int’l Speedway, during the Bluegreen Vacations Duels at Daytona.

The pair of 60-lap, 150-mile contests serve a dual purpose.

Not only do the two Duels determine the final two Open drivers who will make The Great American Race, they also set the final grid spots for the entire field, save for the front row starters, which were determined during Busch Pole Qualifying on Feb. 9.

As part of the reward for their front-row qualifying efforts, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Alex Bowman will lead their respective fields to green in Thursday night’s two Duels.

Stenhouse and Bowman will start on the pole for their respective races, which see the 43 entrants for The Great American Race divided evenly in half.

Drivers racing in Duel No. 1 will race for the odd-numbered grid positions (3, 5, 7 … 37) in the starting field, while those in Duel No. 2 square off for the even-numbered grid positions (4, 6, 8 … 38).

The lineups for both races were determined by the results from Busch Pole Qualifying on Feb. 9, with slight adjustments if necessary to evenly divide the Open drivers between the two Duel races.

Alongside Stenhouse in the first Duel Thursday night will be Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott, who posted the third-fastest lap in time trials and is seeking his third Duel win in the last four years.

Three-time Duel victor Denny Hamlin will be flanked by Aric Almirola in the second row of Duel No. 1, with rookie Christopher Bell completing the top five starters.

Other notables in the first Duel include defending Duel winner Joey Logano (starting sixth) and his Team Penske stablemate Ryan Blaney (starting 14th), who won his Duel race two years ago.

Those who must race their way in out of the first Duel include Reed Sorenson (18th), Daniel Suarez (19th) and Chad Finchum (21st).

Sixteenth-starting Justin Haley is one of two Open drivers already locked into the Daytona 500 no matter what happens in the Duels, based on his qualifying speed from last Sunday.

In Duel No. 2, Jimmie Johnson will join his Hendrick teammate Bowman on the front row, looking for his third Duel triumph to go along with prior wins in 2010 and 2015.

Three-time Duel winner Kyle Busch and third-year Cup Series driver William Byron make up row two for the second Duel, followed by Busch Clash winner Erik Jones as the final starter among the front five.

Other notables in Thursday’s second Duel include defending and two-time Duel winner Kevin Harvick (starting sixth), rookies Cole Custer (starting seventh) and Tyler Reddick (starting ninth), and 2011 Duel winner Kurt Busch (starting 11th).

Open drivers in the second Duel include Brendan Gaughan, Timmy Hill and JJ Yeley. They will start 16th, 17th and 19th, respectively.

Gaughan is the second Open driver locked into Sunday’s Daytona 500 based on speed from Busch Pole Qualifying.

Should either he or Haley race their way in through the Duels, then Sorenson will receive a berth in the Daytona 500 on speed. If both Gaughan and Haley race in out of their respective Duels, then Sorenson and Hill will be the two drivers able to fall back on their qualifying times in order to make the race.

For Suarez, Yeley and Finchum, their only option of making The Great American Race is to be the highest-finishing Open driver in their respective Duels on Thursday night.

The first Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona will see the green flag at 7 p.m. ET, with the second Duel scheduled to roll off at roughly 8:45 p.m. ET.

Both Duels will have live television coverage on FOX Sports 1. They will also be broadcast on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

To view the full lineups for both races, advance to the next page.