NASCAR completed its qualifying process for the Daytona 500 on Thursday night/Friday morning with the annual Duels at Daytona International Speedway. The twin 150-mile races set not only the starting positions for the Feb. 14 race but also determined the final open spots in the 40-car field.
Phase 1 of qualifying took place Wednesday night with pole qualifying. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and William Byron posted the two fastest qualifying lap times and thus gained the pole and No. 2 position, respectively, for the race. Two other drivers — Ryan Preece and David Ragan — earned entry into the race with their qualifying runs. They secured two of the four open spots in the field.
The other two spots were up for grabs in the Duels, with six drivers competing for them. Austin Cindric and Kaz Grala earned them by virtue of their qualifying times after Preece and Ragan both raced their way into the field.
Results of the Duel races set the starting positions for the Daytona 500: Duel 1 set the inside row, Duel 2 set the outside row. Aric Almirola comfortably won Duel 1 and secured the No. 3 position, while Austin Dillon outraced Bubba Wallace to the line to win Duel 2 and the No. 4 starting position.
Dillon’s victory was similar to his win in the 2018 Daytona 500 when he led only the last lap – finishing a quarter-second ahead of Wallace then, too.
“I made a decent block on the backstretch and just a heck of a push through [Turns] 3 and 4. I knew Bubba was going to try and block, but I just whipped the wheel and it worked out well,” Dillon said.
Sporting News tracked live race updates and lap-by-lap highlights from the 2021 Bluegreen Vacations Duels at Daytona. Follow below for complete race results and the official starting lineup for the Daytona 500.
Material from the NASCAR Wire Service was used in this report.
Daytona 500 starting lineup
The first race established the inside row for the Daytona 500.
Duel 1 results
|Starting pos.||Driver||Car No.|
|3. (Won Duel 1)||Aric Almirola||10|
|21.||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||47|
Failed to qualify: Ty Dillon (96), Timmy Hill (66).
Duel 2 results
The second race established the outside row for the Daytona 500.
|Starting pos.||Driver||Car No.|
|4. (Won Duel 2)||Austin Dillon||3|
|26.||Martin Truex Jr.||19|
Failed to qualify: Garrett Smithley (13), Noah Gragson (62).
Daytona Duels 2021 live updates, highlights
(All times Eastern)
12:31 a.m.: One of Wallace’s bosses at 23XI Racing summed up the finish to Duel 2 this way:
12:25 a.m.: CHECKERED FLAG! Bubba Wallace gets a shove from Kyle Busch to take the lead on the white-flag lap, but Austin Dillon gets a run in the trioval, avoids the block, bumps Wallace just before the line and grabs the win. Wallace holds on for second. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott round out the top five. David Ragan and Kaz Grala earn the final two spots in the field.
12:22 a.m.: Duel 2 heads to a two-lap overtime shootout. It’ll be Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon and Kurt Busch restarting in the top five. (UPDATE: Kurt Busch dropped to the back before the restart.)
12:13 a.m.: CAUTION. Big one with four to go, and William Byron gets collected in it. The damage to the car will likely put Byron in a backup car for the 500 and thus at the back of the field. Garrett Smithley touches off the wreck by running his car into Brad Keselowski’s car and causing a chain reaction. The crash also knocks open driver Noah Gragson out of the Duel and the 500.
12:10 a.m.: We’re down to 10 to go, and it’s Duel 2 polesitter William Byron up front. Austin Dillon and Kurt Busch are 2-3 at the time of this writing.
Midnight: The top five for the restart: Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, William Byron, Austin Dillon, Martin Truex Jr.
11:52 p.m.: CAUTION. First major wreck of the race, and one of the drivers involved is Garrett Smithley, who’s trying to race his way into the Daytona 500. At least five cars were damaged. (UPDATE: Fox Sports reports five cars were involved.)
11:45 p.m.: Bubba Wallace gets caught between lanes and falls out of the lead. He’s now eighth as the cars start to run single file on the high side. Noah Gragson, in seventh, is the highest-placed open driver as the race reaches the midway point.
11:35 p.m.: Bubba Wallace is at the head of the inside lane after 15 laps; Kevin Harvick leads the outside lane. They’re 1-2 for the lead.
11:24 p.m.: Green flag for Duel 2! They’re racing after a delay of more than 2 1/2 hours.
11:20 p.m.: Cars are on the track going through pace laps. While we’re waiting, an NFL diversion: Duel 1 winner Aric Almirola, a proud Floridian, had a message for Fox analyst Clint Bowyer, a proud Kansan, about Super Bowl 55: “Things are going right for Tampa Bay, right, Clint Bowyer?” Almirola said in his postrace interview with FS1.
11 p.m.: The plan now is an 11:10 p.m. command to start engines.
10:50 p.m.: Drivers and cars are back on pit road. Just waiting for the race to start. The delay has now lasted past two hours.
9:35 p.m.: It’s turning into one of those nights at Daytona. An Air Titan drying the track slips and then slides down the banking. Damage to the rear. A tow truck is called in.
8:55 p.m.: Just how Byzantine are NASCAR’s Daytona 500 qualifying rules? Last year’s Cup Series champion, son of NASCAR royalty, has questions.
8:45 p.m.: Duel 2 is in a rain delay. No timetable on when the race will start.
8:10 p.m.: White flag. Aric Almirola leads the field, single file, into the backstretch. Joey Logano briefly gets in front but Almirola retakes and wins by three-quarters of a car length. Christopher Bell, who also made a late move, finishes second. Ryan Newman gets up for third. Logano finishes fourth. Ryan Preece completes the top five and thus races his way into the 500 as the top open driver in Duel 1. His race finish replaces his qualifying time as his criterion for getting in. Austin Cindric, who finished 16th and a lap down, gets in based on his qualifying speed. Ty Dillon (sixth) and Timmy Hill (19th) are eliminated.
8 p.m.: With 10 laps to go, Aric Almirola leads Duel 1 and Ty Dillon (fifth) is the leading open driver.
7:55 p.m.: Alex Bowman returns to the track but is two laps down. It’s about saving the engine now.
7:50 p.m.: Green-flag stops cycle through. Austin Cindric serves a pass-through penalty for speeding on pit road. That hurts his chances of getting into the race. With 22 to go, it’s Aric Almirola, Joey Logano, Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Newman and Ty Dillon in the top five.
7:45 p.m.: Daytona 500 polesitter Alex Bowman makes an unscheduled pit stop under green. He’s worried about the engine. His No. 1 position for the race will be in doubt if there is a major issue. Minutes later, wholesale green-flag stops begin.
7:40 p.m.: Lap 25, and it’s single file on the outside. Clean and green so far.
7:35 p.m.: We’re through the first quarter of Duel 1 (15 laps of 60), and the top three are Aric Almirola, Joey Logano and Christopher Bell. Austin Cindric is leading the open drivers needing to race into the 500. This will all have changed by the time you read this, because Daytona.
7:30 p.m.: Denny Hamlin wanted no part of a potential Big One inside the first 10 laps. The two-time defending 500 winner dropped way below the double yellow and shuffled himself to the back of the pack.
7:20 p.m.: Green flag! They’re racing on the superspeedway!
7:10 p.m.: Tyler Reddick will start Duel 1 at the rear because of unapproved adjustments. Fox Sports reported Reddick’s team changed the transmission in Reddick’s No. 8 car.
7 p.m.: NASCAR reminded drivers (with animation) that they need to keep their cars above the double yellow line on the track:
Daytona Duels 2021 start times
- Duel 1: 7 p.m. ET
- Duel 2: 8:45 p.m. ET
The lineup for Duel 1 consists mainly of the drivers who finished in odd-numbered spots in pole qualifying. That means pole sitter Alex Bowman will be on the front row for his Duel race, along with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (third in qualifying).
The lineup for Duel 2 consists mainly of the drivers who finished in even-numbered spots in pole qualifying. That means second-place qualifier William Byron will lead the field for his Duel race along with Bubba Wallace (fourth in qualifying).