Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell win Duels at Daytona

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 10:55 PM

Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell opened the 2024 season by scoring qualifying wins in the Bluegreen Vacations Duels at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday night in Daytona Beach, Fla.

In the second of the two 150-mile qualifying races that established the 40-car field for Sunday’s Daytona 500, pole sitter Michael McDowell headed a 21-car field around the 2.5-mile, high-banked World Center of Racing to start the 60-lap event.

With 19 laps left, leader Bubba Wallace led eight cars to pit road, and eight more followed the next time around. The final five pitted with 17 laps to go.

McDowell reassumed the point with Denny Hamlin and Austin Cindric in tow.

However, the first caution flew when the Ford of defending series champion Ryan Blaney was turned head-on by Byron into the front-stretch wall, setting the No. 12 on fire. Kyle Busch’s Chevrolet was also knocked out of the race.

In an eight-lap shootout, Hamlin passed McDowell, who was locked into the 500 and chose to slide to the back, but Bell, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, moved by and earned the win.

“These plate races are … I don’t know what to think of them,” Bell said after his first Duel win. “I always say these races (at Daytona and Talladega) are 100 percent luck. I know that that’s not true, but it seems that we’ve been struggling to get to the end of it. I know I’ve been a common denominator in a lot of the wrecks.”

Cindric, Hamlin, John Hunter Nemechek and Harrison Burton rounded out the top-five finishers.

Rookie Kaz Grala finished 12th and earned a spot in Sunday’s race.

In the first Duel, Reddick’s No. 45 Toyota Camry XSE of 23XI Racing — which started 19th — roared away from Kyle Larson in the last half-lap and held off two other Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets for the win.

“It’s a great way to start off the weekend,” Reddick said of his first win in a Duel qualifier. “This (Toyota) is a beast.”

Chase Elliott finished second, and he was followed by Alex Bowman, Carson Hocevar and Erik Jones.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson raced his way into the 66th Daytona 500 by coming in 12th.

A two-time Daytona 500 winner, Johnson said the sensation of making the field was a different perspective.

“I’ve never been in a position like this before,” said Johnson, who drives the No. 84 Toyota for his Legacy Motor Club team. “I have such a greater appreciation for everyone before me who’s had to race his way in.”

Pole winner Joey Logano led 20 competitors to the green flag but fell back as Larson took the point followed by Todd Gilliland.

With 21 laps to go and the first set of fuel-only pit stops beginning, Ty Gibbs and Reddick made contact off Turn 4 while coming to pit road but managed to keep their cars straight.

The remainder of the field came to pit road with 16 laps left, with Martin Truex Jr. stalling in his pit stall and losing the draft as the rest of the cars roared off pit road.

Hard-charging Ross Chastain also suffered a tough fate when he was nabbed for going too fast exiting pit road.

After the final stops had cycled around, Larson put his No. 5 Chevrolet into the top spot for the second time.

Daniel Suarez, Elliott, Bowman and Logano positioned themselves in single-file fashion behind Larson.

However, the first caution flew with just over 10 circuits left as an accordion effect of bumping caused Daniel Hemric to loop his car into the east end of the track’s wall.

Johnson also spun down to the apron but managed to work his way back into position to make Sunday’s 40-car field.

–Field Level Media