Race Weekend Central

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

Tyler Reddick scored the win in the first Bluegreen Vacations Duel of Thursday night, Feb. 15, to set the field for the Daytona 500, the opening race of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season.

But perhaps the bigger story involved seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who barely squeezed his way into the Daytona 500 over JJ Yeley on the final turn of the race.

Reddick made a pass on Kyle Larson going into turn 3 on the final lap, pulling away and holding off Chase Elliott for the victory.

Alex Bowman, rookie Carson Hocevar and Erik Jones rounded out the top five.

Johnson, meanwhile, was able to pull past Yeley’s No. 44 after the latter went high to avoid a slowing Ross Chastain. His No. 84 was able to pull ahead of Yeley, who will not race in the Daytona 500 due to neither beating Johnson in the race nor outqualifying Anthony Alfredo on Wednesday.

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“I’ve never been in a position like this before,” Johnson told FOX Sports 1 after the race. “I have such a greater appreciation for everyone before me that’s tried to race their way in. … It’s very stressful.”

Johnson seemed to be in good shape to make the 500 as the top-finishing driver in the first Duel until he was caught up in an accident with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon and Daniel Hemric. Johnson spun his No. 84 but was able to avoid major damage, though he restarted the race with seven to go behind Yeley.

The pair traded positions multiple times, with Yeley blocking Johnson on numerous occasions. Johnson pleaded over the radio for help from his Legacy Motor Club teammate Jones, who was unable to make it back to his boss.

“[I] saw there was some contact; someone in the middle lost a lot of momentum,” Yeley said. “I made a split-second decision to go to the outside, try to, you know, carry the momentum, clear him, at least make the track two-wide to where he couldn’t pass.

“… It sucks. Two years ago we were close, and … just couldn’t get it.”

The race went caution free until the Dillon-Hemric-Johnson incident.

Daytona Duel 1 Results

The Daytona 500 will be held on Sunday, Feb. 18, at 2:30 p.m. ET on FS1. The second Bluegreen Vacations Duel is up next on 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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6 Comments
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Drew

I’m very happy that Jimmie Johnson has raced his way into the Daytona 500 on a last lap pass on jj yeley what a race.

Bill B

I don’t know what Yeley was thinking.
He should have made Johnson be the one to make the bold move on the outside.
Just totally stupid driving.

Drew

Good racing anyway.

old fan

It doesn’t matter. If Yeley would have beaten Johnson and knocked him out of the 500, NASCAR officials would have found that some part of his car was .000000001 of an inch out of spec and DQ’d him so Johnson would have made the race.

wildcats2016

I was hoping Johnson wouldn’t make it in.

DoninAjax

NA$CAR wouldn’t let that happen because there is a “rule” that would have let him make it.

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