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NASCAR Cup: Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott win Can-Am Duels, Daytona 500 grid set

Ryan Blaney (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

Ryan Blaney (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)


Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott were victorious Thursday evening as winner of the Can-Am Duel races that determined most of the starting grid for Sunday’s Daytona 500, the official season-opener for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Blaney won the first 60-lap/150-mile race and Elliott the second.

As a result of their Duel wins, Blaney and Elliott will start the Daytona 500 in the second row behind pole sitter Alex Bowman and second-place starter Denny Hamlin, whose starting positions were determined in Daytona 500 front-row qualifying Feb. 11.

Logano’s win was the second of Speedweeks for Team Penske, adding to teammate Brad Keselowski’s win of the Advance Auto Parts Clash on Feb. 11, also at Daytona.

The Team Penske trio of Blaney, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski dominated the first Duel, running in the top-three positions throughout much of the race. Logano took the lead on the opening lap, and by the first yellow flag on lap nine, he was joined up front by both teammates.

“We stayed together for quite some time,” Logano said. “We were able to rally control the pack, which was a lot of fun to see that dominance. Just the way we all worked together was really cool.”

Logano led 56 laps in the opening Duel that went into overtime as a result of a Keselowski wreck on lap 58. Blaney took the lead from Logano just before the caution and led the remaining laps to the checkered flag.

“It’s nice to get the year started off well,” Blaney said. “It’s not the 500. You never know what can happen on Sunday. We came close in the Clash, and I didn’t make a good move, and I kind of lost that race. I learned a little bit from our mistakes. It’s so nice to bring the 12 car back to victory lane. Hopefully, we can make it another one here on Sunday. That would be the one that counts.”

The only other lap leader in the first Can-Am Duel was Justin Marks, who stayed out an extra lap during the first caution.

Keselowski was one of five drivers who retired from the opening Duel as the result of wrecks. Two of the three Hendrick Motorsports drivers in the first race wrecked out — Jimmie Johnson on lap nine and William Byron on lap 39. Johnson’s wreck also collected Almirola, and David Gilliland wrecked out of the first Duel on lap 48. All five will be in backup cars for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

“Tough way to start Speedweeks,” Johnson said. “I feel terrible for my race team for all their hard work. We’ll take that backup out. The car started to shake a little bit entering the tri-oval. That is why I pulled down. I was kind of shocked that I had the shake and knew it was that soft tire shake coming from the right side. As I entered the tri-oval, it finally went flat and hooked me around and into Aric, unfortunately. Terrible way to start, but thankful for all the support from Chevrolet, Lowes for Pros. We will pull out that next bullet and get ready.

The other Hendrick Motorsports driver in the first Duel race, Alex Bowman, played things safe with his Daytona 500 pole already determined. He dropped to the back early Thursday night and remained there for a 14th-place Duel finish.

Logano finished second to teammate Blaney in the opening Duel, with Darrell Wallace Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kurt Busch rounding out the top-five.

While the yellow flag waved four times in the first Duel, there was only one caution in the second Duel, coming around lap 12 when Erik Jones spun and collected the cars of Matt DiBenedetto and Kyle Larson.

Jones was able to continue without issue to post a third-place finish. DiBenedetto and Larson, though, will go to backups for the Daytona 500.

Prior to the first yellow, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Jones ran in the top-three positions, but after pit stops during the race’s lone caution, Kevin Harvick and Hamlin restarted on the front row.

Elliott took the lead on lap 27 and led the remaining laps of the second Duel.

“Our NAPA Camaro ZL1 was really fast tonight,” Elliott said. “A big thanks to everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. The Hendrick engine shop does a great job, brought a lot of steam tonight. I am proud of Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and our entire group. All our partners — Hooters, Kelly Blue Book, Mountain Dew, Sun Energy, Valvoline, and of course, Chevrolet. Like I sais, we are excited to get to Sunday. We did this last year. We have the big one on Sunday; that is the main thing.”

After significant passing for the lead in the opening laps, most of the 20-car field ran single file throughout the second half of the race.

Hamlin pulled out of line a few laps before the finish, but without help, lost positions. He wound up ninth at the finish. Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Menard pulled out to attempt passes for positions on the final lap, but their efforts were too little, too late to overtake Elliott.

Harvick finished second, Bowyer was fourth, and Busch was fifth.

With second-place Duel finishes, Logano and Harvick will start the Daytona 500 in the third row.

Below, is the complete starting grid for the Daytona 500:
Row 1 — Alex Bowman, Denny Hamlin
Row 2 — Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott
Row 3 — Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick
Row 4 — Darrell Wallace Jr., Erik Jones
Row 5 — Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Clint Bowyer
Row 6 — Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch
Row 7 — Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon
Row 8 — David Ragan, Paul Menard
Row 9 — Daniel Suarez, Trevor Bayne
Row 10 — Jamie McMurray, A.J. Allmendinger
Row 11 — Chris Buescher, Michael McDowell
Row 12 — Ty Dillon, Martin Truex Jr.
Row 13 — Brendan Gaughan, Kasey Kahne
Row 14 — Jeffrey Earnhardt, Danica Patrick
Row 15 — Justin Marks, D.J. Kennington
Row 16 — Brad Keselowski, Corey LaJoie
Row 17 — William Byron, Gray Gaulding
Row 18 — Jimmie Johnson, Matt DiBenedetto
Row 19 — Aric Almirola, Kyle Larson
Row 20 — David Gilliland, Mark Thompson

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Posted by on February 16, 2018. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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