A strong restart with eight laps to go — and a push from fellow Chevrolet driver Jamie McMurray — gave Daytona 500 polesitter Chase Elliott the power he needed to maintain the lead and take the checkered flag in Thursday’s Can-Am Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway.
Elliott, the youngest Daytona 500 polesitter, also became the youngest Duel winner in the race’s history — the previous record holder was Jeff Gordon. Elliott will start on the pole in Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for the second straight year.
“We just kind of set out and wanted to race, not ride around,” Elliott said after climbing out of his car in Victory Lane. “I think sometimes you ride around and you don’t know what your car is like and if it’s going to be the way you want it for Sunday. And you can also get yourself in trouble. We took chances and it worked out, so I’m excited for Sunday.”
McMurray gave Chevrolet a 1-2 finish with a runner-up result in his No. 1 Chip Ganassi ride, while Kevin Harvick finished third in the Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Team Penske Ford and Matt Kenseth’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota rounded out the top five.
Keselowski displayed his familiar restrictor-plate power, leading a race-high 28 laps.
“We had a good night,” Keselowski said. “We knew the 24 car (of Elliott) was going to be strong. It just didn’t shake out like I hoped it would in some of those pivotal moments, but that’s part of it. … We’re going to work on some things that make that possible.”
Duel 1 race determined the inside row for Sunday’s Daytona 5000 with Elliott locked into the top starting position, followed by McMurray (third), Harvick (fifth), etc. behind him.
The top 10 finishers received championship points, so race winner Elliott earned 10 points for the season, second-place McMurray nabbed nine, all the way to 10th-place Cole Whitt earning one point. The same system also applied to Duel 2.
Corey LaJoie claimed a spot in the “Great American Race,” as he was the highest finisher (18th) among the three Open teams in the race. Brendan Gaughan had previously earned a spot by being the fastest Open car during Sunday’s qualifying session.
Reed Sorenson seemed poised to earn a spot in the Daytona 500 as the highest Open team, but contact from LaJoie with 12 laps to go caused his No. 55 Toyota to spin and it was quickly towed off track. Paul Menard (20th) and Kyle Busch (13th) were also affected in the wreck.
Joey Logano (ninth) experienced problems early in the 60-lap race: He fell back in the pack and was forced to pit for a loose wheel that was causing a vibration in the first 20 laps.
Check out the unofficial results of Duel #1.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!