Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano were both winner in their respective Gander RV Duels at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday night.
Harvick, the winner of Duel 1, held off Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Paul Menard in a last lap shuffle. Meanwhile, Joey Logano passed Clint Bowyer on the final lap en route to the win in Duel 2.
William Byron, who won the pole for the 61st running of the Daytona 500, took the green flag in the Gander RV Duel 1, and led the first 15 laps of the day. A few laps prior, Harvick, along with a number of other drivers, short pitted for fuel in hopes to leapfrog to the lead.
The plan worked, as when Byron and the others re-joined the race, Harvick led the pack around and to the front.
There were multiple pit road penalties during the green flag stops, costing Brad Keselowski, Matt Tifft, Ryan Preece, and Daniel Hemric either a pass through penalty or worse. Keselowski was held one lap for cutting through too many pit stalls.
The only caution in the first Duel came at lap 27, when Jimmie Johnson made contact with the left rear of Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Toyota.
“Yeah, I just got it wrong, clearly” Johnson said post race. “We got three wide, and I just kind of misjudged that situation in being three wide and trying to tuck in behind Kyle.”
“Unfortunately, just turned him around. Apologies to he and his team and I know that is not what they wanted with their 500 car, but I just got it wrong there.”
Harvick took the restart at lap 30 and remained as the leader for the rest of the way, leading a total of 44 of the 60 laps.
“Last week taught us that we needed to have track position,” Harvick said. “They did a good job on pit road and got on and off pit road, and then we had a couple Ford Mustangs behind us as well.”
“Ricky and Paul worked with us, and we were able to keep the track position, and our cars were fast enough together to keep everyone else back there.”
The other side of the Daytona 500 front row, Alex Bowman, brought the field through the tri-oval to begin what would end up as a caution-free event.
This time, the second round of pits had a better entry than the first, and Bowyer was able to lead the field after merging back up to speed. Bowyer officially took the lead for the first time on lap 19 after Brendan Gaughan gave up the lead to pit.
Bowyer led the field in a mostly single file precession until the last lap, and that’s when Logano made his move. With help from teammate Ryan Blaney, Logano launched around Bowyer on the backstretch and into Turn 3. Logano held on and took the checkered flag.
“You have the whole race to think about making a move and we were all out there just waiting,” Logano said. “Everyone behind me really wanted to go and I just knew that I had to wait.”
“The later you can do it, the less the risk if it doesn’t work.”
“I got a good run from the 12 (Blaney) behind me and went to the bottom and got a good run. I was able to side draft the 10 (Almirola) and pull him back and just barely get enough to break that plane in front of the 14 *(Bowyer) and clear him up. From there I was just blocking to the finish like. My spotter TJ (Majors) did a great job feeding me all the information I needed to make a decision.”
The Top 10 in each duel received stage points, like they would in a stage in a regular points race, however, the winners do not receive any playoff points.
The results also set the starting lineup for Sunday, sans the front row, so the second row will feature Duel winners Harvick and Logano.
Ford Racing, now utilizing the Mustang in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, swept the Top 3 finishing positions in both Gander RV Duels, and will own the 3rd through 8th starting positions for the main event.
By virtue of the duel results, Ryan Truex and Joey Gase failed to qualify for the Daytona 500, which takes the green flag on Sunday, February 17th, just after 2:30 pm ET.
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