Whomever decided to move the Budweiser Duel qualifying races to being under the lights instead of during the afternoon is a pure genius. Racing is always more exciting at night, as was seen in the Sprint Unlimited, but in essence this is the best opportunity for teams to see how their cars stack up when in a bigger field, using the draft and what changes will need made.
That being said, what we got in the Duels was actually both ends of the spectrum in what can happen in a restrictor plate race.
In the first race, it came down to a 3-wide battle at the finish. Sure there isn’t points on the line, but there’s still a trophy and bragging rights. That was on the line when it was Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne all going after the win. The battle came to a half a car length between them, with Kenseth taking the win.
On the opposite side, the second duel also came down to the last lap. Actually, it didn’t even come down to that. It truthfully came down to the last third of the final lap. Because at that point, there would be a winner, but in the end there were lots of losses too.
A huge melee behind the leaders took out some of the biggest threats in the race, including the likes of Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr, whom already qualified on the front row. Clint Bowyer went for a complete flip and somehow landed on the wheels and kept driving.
Denny Hamlin won that race, his second win of the weekend at Daytona, but the destroyed cars in the end were the story.
So now, teams are scrambling to figure out whether it’s worth repairing the primary car, or getting the backup one out. Chances are, many will go to the backup, and that means losing the starting spot earned in either qualifying or in the duels. At the same time, when it comes to Daytona, it doesn’t matter where someone starts, because the draft in reality brings the field together and becomes a strategy race instead of worrying about where you start.
So now, the field is set, and after just two more practice sessions, there will be no more waiting. It was mid-November when NASCAR last had a points-earning race. Now, the new season is ready to get started.
FOX has the broadcast beginning at Noon, with the race going green shortly after 1 p.m.
STARTING LINEUP-DAYTONA 500
ROW: Inside; Outside (Driver, Car No., Sponsor, Make)
ROW 1: Austin Dillon, No. 3 DOW Chevrolet; Martin Truex Jr, No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet
ROW 2: Matt Kenseth, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota; Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota
ROW 3: Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet; Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet
ROW 4: Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 Stanley Tools Ford; Kurt Busch, No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet
ROW 5: Dale Earnhardt Jr, No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet; Paul Menard, No. 27 Peak/Menards Chevrolet
ROW 6: Josh Wise, No. 98 Curb Records Ford; Brian Scott, No. 33 Whitetail Chevrolet
ROW 7: Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford; Trevor Bayne, No. 21 Motorcraft/QuickLane Tire and Auto Center Ford
ROW 8: A.J. Allmendinger, No. 47 Kroger/USO Chevrolet, Kyle Larson, No. 42 Target Chevrolet
ROW 9: David Gilliland, No. 38 Love’s Travel Shops Ford; Landon Cassill, No. 40 Hillman Racing Chevrolet
ROW 10: Ryan Newman, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet; Clint Bowyer, No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota
ROW 11: Tony Stewart, No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet; Jamie McMurray, No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet
ROW 12: Cole Whitt, No. 26 Speed Stick Gear Toyota; Terry Labonte, No. 32 C&J Energy Services Ford
ROW 13: Greg Biffle, No. 16 3M Ford; Bobby Labonte, No. 52 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet
ROW 14: Danica Patrick, No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet; Casey Mears, No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet
ROW 15: Alex Bowman, No. 23 Dr. Pepper Toyota; Carl Edwards, No. 99 Fastenal Ford
ROW 16: Brian Vickers, No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota; Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
ROW 17: Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Miller Lite Ford; Ricky Stenhouse Jr, No. 17 Nationwide Insurance Ford
ROW 18: Joey Logano, No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford; Michael Annett, No. 7 Pilot/Flying J Travel Centers Chevrolet
ROW 19: Kyle Busch, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota; Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet
ROW 20: Reed Sorenson, No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet; Justin Allgaier, No. 51 Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet
ROW 21: Parker Klingerman, No. 30 Swan Energy Toyota; Michael Waltrip, No. 66 BlueDEF/AAA Toyota
Row 22: David Ragan, No. 34 CSX-Play it Safe Ford
DID NOT QUALIFY: Eric McClure, Ryan Truex, Joe Nemachek, Morgan Shepherd, Michael McDowell
WITHDREW: Dave Blaney