Checkers for Almirola, heartbreak for Ty Dillon at Daytona

Checkers for Almirola, heartbreak for Ty Dillon at Daytona
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Aric Almirola celebrated the 2021 NASCAR Cup season opener with a trip to Victory Lane after winning the first Bluegreen Vacation Duel at Daytona International Speedway.

His third-place run in Wednesday’s time trials was a preview of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford’s potential in the 60-lap qualifier.

Almirola who finished second in the first Duel last year behind Joey Logano, wasn’t going to make the same mistake on Thursday.

“This thing was a hot rod,” said Almirola, who led a race-high 52 laps. “I’m so proud of these guys on this race team. Our race car is so fast. I’m proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. We’ve got an incredible race car and I can’t wait for the Daytona 500.

“Our Ford Mustang is fast and it’s a great way to kickoff the season.”

Almirola took the lead from Alex Bowman on the first lap. He pitted on Lap 33 and cycled to the front four laps later. Almirola rode with Logano on his bumper until the last circuit. Although Logano flirted with the lead coming into Turn 3 on the white-flag lap, Almirola slid back to the point for the win.

Christopher Bell finished second followed by Ryan Newman, Logano and Ryan Preece, who edged Ty Dillon by a nose for fifth. With the top-five, Preece raced his way into Sunday’s 500 despite having locked himself in on speed in time trials.

Unfortunately for Dillon, who was racing for the charter-less Gaunt Brothers, one position was the difference between making the show or going home for the first time since his Daytona debut in 2015.

“It hurts for sure,” Dillon said. “It’s been just unique this off-season for me with the ups and downs. It’s a blessing to get to drive a race car in NASCAR first of all and you get so close to being in the Daytona 500 again. It’s tough.

“I have to thank Johnny Morris (owner, Bass Pro Shops) and Marty Gaunt (team owner), Toyota. This is the opportunity of a lifetime to continue to drive race cars. I believe in myself that I can get it done in these races and to finish sixth and not get any reward for it is hard. I’ll get the great reward of spending time with my kids on Sunday and we’ll probably watch the race. It definitely hurts.”

Preece’s promotion opened the door for rookie Austin Cindric. The Team Penske driver advanced on time despite finishing 16th, one lap down following a speeding penalty when he pit on Lap 33. Posting the 19th time on Wednesday was sufficient to earn the defending Xfinity Series champion a starting spot in the Great American Race.

“In some ways, I feel lucky,” Cindric said. “The scenario in which it had to play out was very specific. The 37 (Preece) got trapped on the top. When the 96 (Dillon) went down to the middle lane in three and four, I shoved for all I could.

“Obviously, Ty drove a really great race. I think he outdrove what he was driving, put himself in a great position. It's unfortunate because he's definitely a veteran of the series. I think he deserves to be in the race. Like I said, some days it's your day and some days it isn’t."

Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, Michael McDowell and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top 10 in Duel 1. Polesitter Bowman pitted on Lap 30 and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team raised the hood on the Chevrolet. When Bowman returned to the track, he complained of a “shake” with the car. Bowman finished 20th, four laps down.

The only wreck in the first Duel occurred when Cole Custer spun coming through Turn 3 and hit the wall. He was scored 14th.

Duel 2 was delayed by more than two hours due to rain.

 


Race Results for the Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 - Thursday, February 11, 2021
Daytona International Speedway - Daytona Beach, FL - 2.5 - Mile Paved

Total Race Length - 60 Laps - 150. Miles

Fin Str Car Driver Team Laps Stage 2 Pos Pts Status Tms Laps Playoff Pts
1 2 10 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 60 10 Running 4 52
2 4 20 Christopher Bell DEWALT Toyota 60 9 Running 2 3
3 12 6 Ryan Newman Kohler Generators Ford 60 8 Running
4 11 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 60 7 Running
5 5 37 * Ryan Preece Cottonelle Chevrolet 60 6 Running
6 17 96 * Ty Dillon(i) Bass Pro Shops/Black Rifle Coffee Toyota 60 0 Running
7 8 5 Kyle Larson Nations Guard Chevrolet 60 4 Running
8 6 99 Daniel Suarez iFly Chevrolet 60 3 Running 1 2
9 14 34 Michael McDowell Love's Travel Stops Ford 60 2 Running
10 18 77 Jamie McMurray AdventHealth Chevrolet 60 1 Running
11 3 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Kroger/NOS Energy Drink Chevrolet 60 0 Running
12 9 21 Matt DiBenedetto Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford 60 0 Running
13 7 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Toyota 60 0 Running 1 1
14 13 41 Cole Custer HaasTooling.com Ford 60 0 Running
15 16 8 Tyler Reddick Lenovo Chevrolet 60 0 Running 1 2
16 10 33 * Austin Cindric(i) Verizon 5G Ford 59 0 Running
17 15 43 Erik Jones Armor All Chevrolet 59 0 Running
18 19 00 Quin Houff Mane 'n Tail Chevrolet 58 0 Running
19 20 66 * Timmy Hill(i) VSI Racing Ford 57 0 Running
20 1 48 Alex Bowman Ally Chevrolet 56 0 Running
21 21 51 Cody Ware Nurtec ODT Chevrolet 56 0 Running
22 22 52 Josh Bilicki Wisconsin Lighting Lab Ford 14 0 Overheating
 

Time of Race: 0 Hrs, 46 Mins, 53 Secs. Average Speed: 191.966 MPH Margin of Victory: .041 Seconds
Stage 1 Top 10:
Stage 2 Top 10:

 Race Comments: Aric Almirola won the Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway, his first victory in the NASCAR Cup Series qualifying races. Prior to the start of the race, the following vehicles dropped to the rear of the field for the reasons indicated: #8 (unapproved adjustments/transmission change). 

Caution Flags: 0 for  laps; Laps:.

Lead Changes: 9 among 5 drivers; A. Bowman 0; A. Almirola 1-2; D. Suarez 3-4; C. Bell 5; A. Almirola 6; C. Bell 7-8; A. Almirola 9-33; D. Hamlin 34; T. Reddick 35-36; A. Almirola 37-60.

(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series




Race Results for the Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 - Thursday, February 11, 2021
Daytona International Speedway - Daytona Beach, FL - 2.5 - Mile Paved

Total Race Length - 63 Laps - 157.5 Miles

Fin Str Car Driver Team Laps Stage 2 Pos Pts Status Tms Laps Playoff Pts
1 4 3 Austin Dillon Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet 63 10 Running 2 2
2 2 23 Bubba Wallace DoorDash Toyota 63 9 Running 2 3
3 3 4 Kevin Harvick Busch Light #TheCrew Ford 63 8 Running 4 11
4 8 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota 63 7 Running
5 5 9 Chase Elliott NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet 63 6 Running
6 9 12 Ryan Blaney Menards/Blue DEF/PEAK Ford 63 5 Running 1 4
7 17 7 Corey LaJoie Youtheory Chevrolet 63 4 Running
8 6 36 * David Ragan Select Blinds Ford 63 3 Running
9 7 1 Kurt Busch Monster Energy Chevrolet 63 2 Running
10 15 17 Chris Buescher Fastenal Ford 63 1 Running
11 13 2 Brad Keselowski Discount Tire Ford 63 0 Running
12 14 19 Martin Truex Jr. Bass Pro Shops Toyota 63 0 Running 2 9
13 20 53 Joey Gase Page Construction Ford 63 0 Running
14 10 16 * Kaz Grala Hyper Ice Chevrolet 63 0 Running
15 11 14 Chase Briscoe # HighPoint.com Ford 61 0 Running
16 18 13 * Garrett Smithley(i) Trophy Tractor Ford 61 0 Running
17 21 15 Derrike Cope Jacob Companies Chevrolet 59 0 Running
18 22 62 * Noah Gragson(i) Beard Motorsports/South Point Chevrolet 56 0 Accident
19 1 24 William Byron Axalta Chevrolet 56 0 Accident 3 34
20 12 42 Ross Chastain Clover Chevrolet 56 0 Accident
21 16 38 Anthony Alfredo # Speedy Cash Ford 35 0 Accident
22 19 78 BJ McLeod(i) NASCAR Heats Ford 35 0 Accident

Time of Race: 0 Hrs, 59 Mins, 47 Secs. Average Speed: 158.071 MPH Margin of Victory: .057 Seconds
Stage 1 Top 10:
Stage 2 Top 10:

Race Comments: Austin Dillon won the Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 at Daytona International Speedway. His first victory in the NASCAR Cup Series qualifying races at Daytona. Prior to the start of the race, the following vehicles dropped to the rear of the field under penalty for the reasons indicated: #53 (unapporved adjustments). 
 
 Caution Flags: 2 for 8 laps; Laps: 37-40 (16, 38, 14, 13, 78 Incident Turn 2 [None]); 58-61 (#13, 24, 42, 62, 2 Incident Frontstretch [16]).

Lead Changes: 14 among 6 drivers; B. Wallace 1; W. Byron 2-11; K. Harvick 12-15; B. Wallace 16-17; K. Harvick 18; W. Byron 19-32; A. Dillon 33; K. Harvick 34-37; R. Blaney 38-41; W. Byron 42-51; M. Truex Jr. 52-53; K. Harvick 54-55; M. Truex Jr. 56-62; A. Dillon 63.

(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series

Next Race: February 14, 2021 - Daytona International Speedway
NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications @ P.O. Box 2875, Daytona Beach, FL 32120-2875
 

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