NASCAR Cup Series

RFK Racing sweeps Daytona Duels, Grala and Biffle make 500

4 Mins read
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Thursday was a night to remember for RFK Racing. The team, born out of a new partnership between Roush Fenway Racing and Brad Keselowski, enjoyed tremendous success in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel as Keselowski and Chris Buescher won the two races to guarantee second-row starting positions in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

The first Duel began with pole winner Kyle Larson on the pole and was a relatively uneventful affair with no cautions. Larson led the first half of the sixty-lap race before pit stops cycled Ryan Blaney into the lead. Keselowski passed his former Penske team-mate on lap 57 and, joined by a contingent of Fords in Blaney, Austin Cindric, and Chase Briscoe, drove off to his first career Duel win. The trio were alumni of Keselowski’s previous ownership venture, Brad Keselowski Racing in the Camping World Truck Series.

“I felt pretty good about our car in practice on Tuesday,” said Keselowski. “I’ve got to give credit to the other Fords. We worked really well together—Ryan Blaney, Chase Briscoe. We had great strategy, Austin Cindric, and we stuck together and drove away and got ourselves in position where we could control the finish of this race, and I’m happy to see all those Fords up front. Good job to all those guys.”

Duel #2’s pole sitter was Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports team-mate Alex Bowman while Buescher was further back in fourteenth. Unlike the first race, the second saw a little more spice as Bowman and Joey Logano repeatedly traded the lead before Buescher seemed to settle into the spot on lap 19. Buescher led before pit stops cycled Logano back into first, though his race ended on the final lap when an aggressive block on the backstretch caused him to spin into the wall. As the caution came out, Buescher snuck by to claim the win and ensure a Duel sweep for RFK.

“It’s not the big show, but we’ve got a really good hot rod here,” Buescher commented.

Since the Duel’s inception in 1959, RFK is the third team to win both races in a single year, joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2014 and Hendrick Motorsports in 2015. RFK last won a Duel as Roush Fenway with Matt Kenseth in 2012.

Further back, Kaz Grala and Greg Biffle secured spots in the Daytona 500. Grala endured a tumultuous Duel #1 in which he was penalised for speeding on pit road before a late rally enabled him to pass J.J. Yeley for eighteenth and the non-charter transfer spot, an experience that he described as going “from puke to puke, puking nervous to puking excited at the end.” Biffle placed thirteenth while his Open rival Timmy Hill finished second-to-last and four laps down, enabling him to easily take the final spot for non-chartered cars.

For Grala, his qualification will ensure The Money Team Racing‘s Cup Series début in the Great American Race. Biffle will make his first Cup start since 2016.

“I have not slept much in the last couple days just trying to keep a cool composure,” Biffle stated. “I’ve been nervous about this race because there’s so many things that can happen and so many ways it can go. We’ve talked the scenarios all the way, and I watched the first race and I saw the #62 car (Noah Gragson) was in the lead of the cars, and I thought, well, if he finishes in front of those guys and the #50 (Grala) actually runs in the second race, we’ll be in on time. Just figuring all those scenarios.

“But the car drove really, really good. […] We had a little bit of a hiccup trying to put fuel in on pit road and lost the draft, so we were able to kind of work our way back in there. Maybe that was good for us because we missed that wreck towards the end, so we might have been in the middle of that.”

Gragson and Jacques Villeneuve guaranteed their places in the 500 with their qualifying times on Wednesday. To avoid damaging the car, Gragson elected to run at the back for most of the day and therefore finished there, while Villeneuve suffered early electrical trouble that took him out of Duel contention. Still, he’s in the race.

Conversely, MBM Motorsports team-mates Hill and Yeley failed to qualify for the 500, marking the team’s second consecutive year where both cars missed the race.

“Unfortunately the start to the season didn’t go as planned,” posted the team on social media. “With this being a new car our learning curve is bigger. We are heartbroken with the results but will be back stronger.”

Duel #1 results

196Brad KeselowskiRFK RacingFord60Running
2112Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord60Running
3712Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord60Running
41014Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord60Running
539Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet60Running
61243Erik JonesPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet60Running
715Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet60Running
888Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet60Running
91345Kurt Busch23XI RacingToyota60Running
1041Ross ChastainTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet60Running
11599Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet60Running
12224William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet60Running
131431Justin HaleyKaulig RacingChevrolet60Running
141877Landon Cassill*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet60Running
151638Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord60Running
161541Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord59Running
17616Daniel Hemric*Kaulig RacingChevrolet59Running
181950Kaz Grala*The Money Team RacingChevrolet58Running
192155J.J. Yeley*MBM MotorsportsFord58Running
202078B.J. McLeodLive Fast MotorsportsFord58Running
211762Noah Gragson*Beard MotorsportsChevrolet57Running
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points
Bold – Open car, made Daytona 500
Underscore – Open car, DNQ

Duel #2 results

11417Chris BuescherRFK RacingFord60Running
21134Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord60Running
3521Harrison BurtonWood Brothers RacingFord60Running
4918Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota60Running
5720Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota60Running
6319Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota60Running
7823Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota60Running
81647Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet60Running
9622Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord59Accident
10134Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord59Running
11157Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet59Running
121242Ty DillonPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet59Running
131944Greg Biffle*NY Racing TeamChevrolet59Running
14148Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet59Running
15411Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota59Running
161751Cody WareRick Ware RacingFord59Running
172015David RaganRick Ware RacingFord58Running
18103Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet58Running
19210Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord58Running
202166Timmy Hill*MBM MotorsportsFord56Running
211827Jacques VilleneuveTeam HezebergFord34Electrical
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About author
Justin is a History major at San Jose State University and lifelong racing fan who has worked for The Checkered Flag since 2018. His coverage mainly focuses on NASCAR, the Stadium Super Trucks, and off-road series like Extreme E and SCORE International. He also dabbles in other disciplines such as IndyCar, rallycross, and sports cars.
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