After winning the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series championship, Joey Logano hasn’t missed a beat at all, capturing the victory in Bluegreen Vacations Duel #1 at Daytona International Speedway.
Logano, who led a race-high 33 laps in the first of two Duel races, was able to hold back advances from Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, and several others over the course of the final laps, to capture his third Duel race victory in the last five years.
The 150-mile contest ran its entire duration without a single caution flag, which set up a pit strategy battle between manufacturers, with the Toyota and Ford entries electing to pit later, while the Chevrolets elected to pit earlier.
In the end, it was the nine Toyota and Ford entries that prevailed in the long run, running some great lap times throughout the second half of the event, to keep the Chevrolets more than five seconds behind, leaving them to settle the win amongst themselves.
Christopher Bell came within a whisper of securing the victory and securing a third-place starting spot in Sunday’s Daytona 500, after slicing through the pack and putting himself in a position to be alongside the race’s eventual winner at the exit of turn four.
Bell, a driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, would come up 18-thousandths of a second short and would have to settle for a runner-up result. Ryan Blaney finished the 150-mile contest in third, with Chris Buescher, and Michael McDowell rounding out the top five.
Kevin Harvick, in the final Bluegreen Vacations Duel of his NASCAR Cup Series career, finished in sixth place, with Bubba Wallace falling back to seventh place, after running inside the top five in the race’s closing laps.
Zane Smith, Harrison Burton, and William Byron completed the top-10 in the first of two Duel events on Thursday.
By virtue of his eighth-place finish, Zane Smith officially locked himself into the 2023 Daytona 500, piloting a third entry for Front Row Motorsports.
“Once we got to about ten to go I’m like ‘Man, please, please no caution,'” said Zane Smith. “But just a huge shout-out to my whole FRM team, our Wellcare Mustang was good enough to get in – which there are a lot of really good open cars.”
Smith, the defending champion of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, was nearly speechless after locking himself into “The Great American Race”.
“Just, I don’t know what life is,” Smith continued. “I have Jimmie Johnson parked behind me. I watched him all my life growing up and is still my idol. Just unbelievable being in the Great American Race.”
After struggling to get a qualifying lap at full speed on Wednesday, Chandler Smith’s attempt to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut took a turn for the worse on Thursday, after a pit road penalty in the middle of Thursday’s Duel 1.
As a result, Smith’s finish of 18th, the worst of the three open cars in the first qualifying race, has locked him out of making the 2023 Daytona 500, in a third entry for Kaulig Racing.
“Before I said I’m fine if I don’t make it, but it would be awesome if I make it I believe everything happens for a reason,” said C. Smith. “I’m a believer. I’m fine with this. I had a lot of fun right there. I learned a lot, a lot, a lot, now I get what these guys talk about when you run on a Sunday you gain a lot of experience. That translates into Saturdays and Sundays.”
Jimmie Johnson, driving the No. 84 for LEGACY MOTOR CLUB, will lock into the 2023 Daytona 500 as a result of his qualifying speed on Wednesday, the quickest of the six open entries.
WAY TO GO JOEY!!!🏁🏁