The no.10 Stewart-Haas Racing driver was on top in the first Thursday race.
Aric Almirola started 2nd in the first duel at Daytona and was just able to beat Christopher Bell in a tight race on the last lap. Aric Almirola led 52 out of 60 laps in Thursday night’s duel race, showing amazing speed out of the no.10 Smithfield Ford Mustang. Almirola managed to stay out front until needing to come in the pits for a pit stop. ASN asked Almirola a question about what he can take away from the duel and bring into the Daytona 500. “What was one part of tonight’s race that you feel you improved on to have a successful race on Sunday?” Aric Almirola responded explaining how he was the proudest of was entering and exiting pit road: “Honestly I feel that, of all my takeaways from tonight, the one thing I am most proud of myself was getting on and off of pit road. The race was won there and I think I did a pretty good job of getting on the pit road without sliding my tires, without having any lockups but still maximizing getting on the pit road. Not speeding but, you know, rolling down the pit road very aggressively, and then getting into my box nice and clean.”
The duel is important for some drivers, this is their last chance to show they deserve a spot in the Daytona 500. Racing to clinch a spot in The Great American Race is the ultimate goal. Austin Cindric, Ty Dillon, and Timmy Hill were three drivers hoping to race into Sunday’s event. Only one of them advances. It was looking good for Austin Cindric during the beginning of the race. Austin was at the front of the field, drafting with the leaders. Moments like these are huge for Austin, especially since this is his first race as a NASCAR Cup Series driver. The added pressure of making it into the Daytona 500 definitely sat with him. As the race passed halfway, each driver’s strategy showed as they needed to come down pit lane for adjustments. Cindric was caught with a heavy mistake of speeding on pit road, in a 60-lap race, this did not help him at all. This left him with no control over racing his way in as he went a lap behind the leaders. Ty Dillon was doing everything he could, outracing his equipment and staying within the top pack. Making the 500 would be a huge accomplishment for Ty, as he has a limited schedule in 2021. Ty Dillon had one final opportunity to stay in front of Preece, who just beat Dillon across the finish line by 3 feet, ending his Daytona 500 hopes. Austin Cindric in the no.33 Ford Mustang for Team Penske locked himself into the 500. This ended all Daytona 500 hopes for Hill and Dillon as they will head home early.
Pole sitter, Alex Bowman, showed he had the fastest car and posted the quickest lap during the Daytona 500 qualifying. He began the race in the first position and quickly left the tight racing in the front and headed to the rear of the field, to stay safe from any wrecks, which would take away his pole position for the Daytona 500 if he was involved. The no.48 Chevrolet ran into engine issues during the race and brought the car to pit road to open the hood and have his team make an effort to diagnose what the problem was. The team was unable to locate what caused the issue and put the car back out on the track to test the engine. Alex Bowman told the team that the engine was getting better, but felt a vibration within the car. Bowman was able to finish the race, laps behind the leader. The no.48 team will continue to look at the issue, hoping to keep their pole position for the Daytona 500.