It is the second year in a row that Ford has won both Duel races.
But What Really Happened?
An absolute miracle in an absolute snore.
During Wednesday afternoon’s media day scrum, Chris Buescher spoke about the absence of a parts shortage heading into the weekend affecting the way they raced on Thursday.
Since there would be no worries surrounding replacement parts for the Next Gen car, drivers would have more freedom to race as they pleased during the twin 150-mile qualifying races that set the field for the Daytona 500. With that in mind, everyone braced ourselves for an exciting Thursday night of competition.
That’s not what happened.
The first heat race of the night saw some side-by-side racing for about 10 laps before the field became a familiar form of a locomotive.
Until one lap to go in the first Duel, that’s the way it was.
The Fords (and some Toyotas) had pulled away, outsmarting the Chevrolets on pit strategy and fought amongst each other for the top spot once the white flag waved. In the end, Logano prevailed.
As far as these races go, that’s par for the course.
And for most of duel two, it was going the same way. As the field circulated around the 2.5-mile speedway in a train for most of the first 43 laps, the headlines were already written with race leader Kyle Busch as the winner.
To make the race less interesting, Daly had already gone a lap down on the field, leaving 500 qualifying rival Hill in perfect position to capitalize. Hill chose to ride in the back with Travis Pastrana, driving the other open car but whose qualifying time had already locked him into Sunday’s race.
Then, out of nowhere came an absolute miracle for the No. 50, unexpected contact on a straightaway that changed the whole complexion of the race.
Daniel Suarez sent the No. 8 of Busch into the outside wall with less than 20 laps to go. For the new Richard Childress Racing driver, it was a frustrating end to a night that felt like it was going to be race win.
But for Daly, it was the perfect storm. What was a sure elimination from Sunday’s big show became an immediate berth in the field.
The NTT IndyCar Series star watched as both cars he needed to pass – Hill and Pastrana – were collected in the crash, forcing them behind the wall and out of contention.
Daly, who was driving for Floyd Mayweather’s outfit, became the talk of the town. The Money Team – the same No. 50 group that barely made it off of pit road before the race began – lucked its way into the Daytona 500.
After that, the racing heated up, and Almirola went on to win duel two after a fun last couple of laps. But that certainly isn’t what everyone was talking about.
With how happy the miracle made the sweating Money Team, can you blame them?
Who Will Stand Out on Sunday?
You can’t really pick just one.
Heck, you really can’t pick anyone.
However, there is something to be said about Logano and the rest of the Ford camp.
That’s also including the Team Penske cars, who led all but one lap in duel one and also finished first and third in the 500-mile survival race one year ago.
There’s also Busch, still seeking his first career Daytona 500 victory in his 18th try. Before Busch felt the might of Suarez, he led a whopping 28 laps in his duel.
Even with a backup car, if there was a time for Rowdy to finally win his long-eluded Daytona 500 victory, it could very well be in 2023 with RCR – the same team that won this race five years ago with Austin Dillon.
The Daytona 500.
Daly, Pastrana, Zane Smith and Johnson will all join the field on Sunday (Feb. 19) when the 500-mile main event sees the green flag wave at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
About the author
Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021. Currently, he is the lead writer for the weekly Thinkin' Out Loud column and one of our lead reporters. Beforehand, he wrote for IMSA shortly after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. Simultaneously, he also serves as a First Lieutenant in the US Army.
Follow Dalton on Twitter @PitLaneLT
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