Race Weekend Central

Christopher Bell Scores Daytona Duel 2 Victory, Kaz Grala Earns Final Daytona 500 Spot

Christopher Bell made the right move to land the victory in the second Bluegreen Vacation Duel at Daytona International Speedway to set the field for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 15.

Bell maneuvered around teammate Denny Hamlin on the backstretch on the final lap of the race following a push from Harrison Burton, and he held off Austin Cindric coming to the finish line for the victory.

The race for the final transfer spot, meanwhile, came down to Kaz Grala and BJ McLeod, with Grala eking out a lead over McLeod at the finish line to send his Front Row Motorsports No. 36 to the Great American Race this weekend. Since David Ragan bested McLeod in qualifying, McLeod joins JJ Yeley as the teams that failed to qualify for the 500.

“These plate races, man,” Bell told FOX Sports 1 post-race. “I don’t know what to think of them. Me and Adam Stevens, my crew chief, we have a running joke that I always say these races are 100% luck. …

“Feels good to do everything right today.”

See also
Tyler Reddick Wins 1st Daytona Duel, Jimmie Johnson Squeezes Into Daytona 500

Hamlin finished third behind Cindric, while John Hunter Nemechek and Harrison Burton rounded out the top five.

The first half of the race saw each manufacturer take turns at the front of the field, including William Byron‘s Chevrolet, Riley Herbst‘s Ford and Bubba Wallace‘s Toyota.

The lead pack also included McLeod, whose unsponsored No. 78 worked its way as high as third during the first half as he attempted to race his way into the 500 as an open car. But McLeod was eventually shuffled back to the rear of the pack right before the field pitted with around 20 laps to go.

After pit stops, polesitter Michael McDowell assumed the lead. McDowell’s teammate, Grala, lost the draft when the 21-car field finished its pit stops, and it appeared that would end his chances of making the 500.

That is, until the Big One with 13 laps to go, which saw Ryan Blaney turned nose first into the outside wall just past the finish line. Noah Gragson, Herbst, Kyle Busch, McLeod and more were involved.

“It looks like a terrible push once again gets me right-reared into the wall,” Blaney told FS1 after the race. “Terrible” was far from the only word he ended up using during the interview to describe other drivers’ pushes.

The race resumed with just under 10 laps to go, with Grala eventually shuffled to the rear of the field, battling with McLeod’s damaged No. 78 for the final spot in the field.

“That was so much more stressful than it needed to be for us,” Grala said. “For a little while there, we looked to be in good shape, and then we had some trouble there … pit road, we weren’t able to stay with the draft. Just really proud of everybody at Front Row Motorsports.”

Daytona Duel 2 Results

The Daytona 500 is set for Sunday, Feb. 18, at 2:30 p.m. ET via FS1.

About the author

Rutherford is the managing editor of Frontstretch, a position he gained in 2015 after serving on the editing staff for two years. At his day job, he's a journalist covering music and rock charts at Billboard. He lives in New York City, but his heart is in Ohio -- you know, like that Hawthorne Heights song.

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I’m very happy that kaz grala raced his way into the Daytona 500 and I’m also happy that all 4 of my predictions were correct.

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