DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Ford looks scary good to start this year’s Daytona Speedweeks. Paul Menard dominated the Clash last Sunday as he led all but six laps. On Thursday night, the blue ovals dominated the first Gander RV Duals in Daytona.
Kevin Harvick took over the lead on Lap 17 and would lead the final 44 laps en route to his second career Duel victory and eighth career win at the Daytona International Speedway.
No one could touch Harvick or the Fords as they’d finish 1-2-3 in the opening 60 Lap race.
Harvick, becomes the first non Hendrick, JGR or Penske driver to win a Dual since 2013. That driver then?
Harvick (Richard Childress Racing).
The pack didn’t make its move until the backstretch on the final lap, but it wasn’t enough to get by Harvick’s No. 4 Ford. He will start third in Sunday’s 61st annual Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET/FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished runner-up in his No. 17 Ford as he narrowly crossed the finish line ahead of third place finisher Paul Menard.
Matt DiBenedetto would finish fourth in his No. 95 Toyota while Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top five in his No. 19 Toyota.
The top Chevrolet driver was Darrell Wallace Jr. who brought his No. 43 Chevrolet home sixth. In 2017, he’d finish this race third.
Here are my main takeaways.
Dual 1 Results
17 Stenhouse Jr.
19 Truex Jr.
43 Wallace Jr.
47 Preece R
31 Reddick R
8 Hemric R -1
18 KyBusch -1
36 Tifft R -1
2 Keselowski -2
52 Ware -2
William Byron Learns A lot But Bows Out On Lap 33
If it were up to crew chief Chad Knaus, William Byron wouldn’t have even raced on Thursday night. He wants to keep the Daytona 500 pole. If he gets caught up in someone else’s mess in the first Duel, then he could potentially have to go to a backup car.
So, Byron raced until a little past the halfway point then bowed out. The 21 year old led the first 15 laps before hitting pit road for fuel only on his first stop. He’d come out in the top 10 and race inside of there for the next 17 laps before ducking below the yellow line on the backstretch and going to the back to ride it out the rest of the way.
It was a perfect learning experience for Byron to get used to the draft as he didn’t race in the Clash last Sunday. He felt his car and raced but also was able to bring it home in one piece.
Johnson Caused Another Crash
The drama surrounding Sunday’s Clash was when Jimmie Johnson got into the left rear quarter panel of Paul Menard on Lap 55 of the race. The contact sparked a 17 car melee in Turn 3 which with rain fell shortly after ending the race after 59 laps of 75.
On Thursday, Johnson did it again – this time to Kyle Busch. On Lap 25, Johnson got into Busch’s left rear quarter panel on his No. 18 Toyota causing Busch to spin on the backstretch.
Johnson, took responsibility saying he “made a mistake.”
Keselowski Has A Rough 1st Pit Sequence
The favorite for Sunday’s Daytona 500 had a rough night on Thursday. He hit pit road on Lap 12 with 10 other cars but that’s where his night basically ended. Keselowski, was penalized for pitting outside of the pit box which as a result cost him a lap. When he hit pit road again to serve his penalty, he was caught speeding. That cost him another lap which in turn forced him to a 20th place finish.
It was the eighth time in the last 11 races that Keselowski finished outside of the top 10 in the Duels.
With Help From Busch, Kligerman Makes The Daytona 500
Parker Kligerman had one way into the Daytona 500 – beat Ryan Truex and Tyler Reddick in his Duel. He did just that finishing 12th in Thursday night’s race. Kligerman though, got some drafting help by fellow Toyota driver Kyle Busch to catch and get by Reddick and would hold him off to move onto the Daytona 500 in his No. 96 Toyota.
Reddick, had a bad first pit stop when he missed his pit. He’d have to go backwards on pit lane to get to his pit box. That forced him back to Kligerman and Truex and at the end of the race, Kligerman got his way in.
Single File Racing
Thursday night’s Duels look a lot like last Sunday’s Clash. That wasn’t too surprising in that the grip levels were higher at night than in the day for the Clash. With everyone playing it safe, why risk it?
We saw single file racing throughout and zero on track lead changes.
When the high line is the preferred line around the track and everyone is running on top of the banking, it’s hard to pass.
Early pit strategy allowed the Fords to win as they hit pit road on Lap 12. One lap earlier, Martin Truex Jr. was the lone car to pit. When the pit sequence ended on Lap 16, Fords held the top spots.
They never relinquished them.
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