Aric Almirola Wins Duel 1 at Daytona to Claim Second Row Starting Spot

Now that Duel 1 is complete, half of the lineup is set for the annual Daytona 500 race. Aric Almirola was able to win the duel in order to grab the third-place starting position for Sunday’s race. Notably, Alex Bowman and William Byron respectively each claimed their starting positions on the front row prior to the duels during Wednesday night’s qualifying session. 

Duel 1 consisted of odd-numbered drivers according to the qualifying speed charts, and the duel served the purpose of setting the odd-numbered starting positions for the 500. 

Though there was no caution during the first half of the race, pole-sitter Alex Bowman reported an issue with the engine of the No. 48 and took his car to pit road at the halfway point. Though less severe than Bowman, Austin Cindric also faced a challenge just a few laps later. As he came for his scheduled pit stop, he was handed a penalty for speeding on pit road, which hurt his chances at locking into the Daytona 500. Notably, the race remained caution-free all the way through.

Although Daniel Suarez and Christopher Bell both managed to lead the race at various points, it was Aric Almirola that dominated the race. He led a whopping 52 laps en route to his win. Almirola bested second-place finisher Christopher Bell by a 0.041 second margin. 

“This thing is really fast. I can’t wait until Sunday,” Almirola told Fox Sports’ Jamie Little. 

For some drivers, the sole purpose of the duels was to advance their car to the main event. Teams that did not have a charter had to battle through the duels in order to participate in the Daytona 500. Of these eight unchartered cars, the No. 37 of Ryan Preece and the No. 36 of David Ragan both secured their spot in Sunday’s race due to their qualifying speeds. 

This left Austin Cindric, Ty Dillon, and Timmy Hill to battle their way into the race in Duel 1. Since Preece was the first open car to finish, this allowed Cindric to advance to the big race on qualifying speed, despite his speeding penalty. Meanwhile, Ty Dillon fell short in advancing by a mere 0.038 seconds. 

Duel 2 is currently under delay for inclement weather. 

Kaylee Hiner