The field for Sunday’s Daytona 500 is now set. With the Gander RV Duels on Thursday, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano will start the 500 behind William Byron and Alex Bowman.
For four Open drivers — Parker Kligerman, Ryan Truex, Joey Gase, and Brendan Gaughan — the Duels were their last chances to make the 500. Kligerman and Truex battled it out in the first race, while Gase and Gaughan were in the second. In simplest terms, the Open driver needed to beat his rival to qualify, though the presence of fellow Open drivers Tyler Reddick and Casey Mears, who qualified for the 500 on time, complicated matters.
Bowman and Hendrick Motorsports team-mate Jimmie Johnson led the field to the start of Duel 1. Reddick was the highest-starting Open driver in ninth, while Truex and Kligerman started fourteenth and nineteenth , respectively.
After ten laps of single-file, green flag racing with Byron leading the way, Martin Truex Jr. began pit stops under green. On their stops, Brad Keselowski, Daniel Hemric, Ryan Preece, and Matt Tifft (twice) received penalties.
Upon completing the pit cycle, Harvick was in the lead. On lap 26, Kyle Busch made contact with Jimmie Johnson, sending the former into a spin. The race resumed on lap 30; Harvick led the remainder of the race to score his first Duel win with Stewart-Haas Racing and first since 2013. Behind him were Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Paul Menard, Matt DiBenedetto, Truex, Darrell Wallace Jr., Chris Buescher, Johnson, Ryan Newman, and Preece.
Byron finished sixteenth, while Kligerman (twelfth) beat Reddick and Truex (thirteenth and fourteenth, respectively) to clinch a position in the 500. It will be Kligerman’s first Daytona 500 start since 2014, while Truex now required Mears to be the highest-placing Open driver in his Duel to qualify.
On Twitter, Harvick’s crew chief Rodney Childers posted:
Like the first Duel, the second saw a Hendrick front row as Bowman and Chase Elliott opened the racing. Bowman led the first eleven laps.
Lap 12 saw the first green flag stops as Erik Jones was penalised for speeding. With the leaders pitting, the Open car duo of Gaughan and Mears, along with Corey LaJoie, stayed out to lead the race. Once the trio pitted on lap 22, Clint Bowyer assumed first.
On the final lap, Logano made his move in turn two, passing Bowyer for the lead on the inside line to score his first career Duel victory. Bowyer settled for second, followed by Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Jamie McMurray, Elliott, Austin and Ty Dillon.
Gaughan finished fifteenth, with Mears seventeenth and Gase twentieth, meaning Gase and Truex failed to qualify for the 500. It is Gase’s first DNQ since Texas Motor Speedway fall race in 2015. For many including Gase, the disappointment comes with somewhat little surprise as MBM Motorsports is not aligned with competitive organisations like the other Open teams. On Twitter, he wrote:
Truex has now failed to qualify in both his attempts in 2014 and 2019. After the race, Kligerman, a good friend of Truex, tweeted:
Logano posted after his win:
Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose former spotter T.J. Majors currently works as Logano’s, tweeted his confidence in Logano’s chances of winning a second 500:
The 2019 Daytona 500 will take place on 17 February. Austin Dillon is the defending winner.