Thursday night’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona International Speedway will set the lineup for the 62nd running of the Daytona 500.
Pole winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and second-place qualifier Alex Bowman have already secured the front row for “The Great American Race” and the rest of the starting positions will be determined via the results of the two 60-lap races.
Stenhouse Jr. and Bowman will lead the field to the green flag from the pole in race 1 and 2, respectively.
There will be many agendas in the Duel and among them are to protect the Daytona 500 car along with scoring stage points to the top-10 finishers in each race.
“I plan on racing unless (Brian) Pattie (crew chief) tells me otherwise,” said Stenhouse Jr., who won the pole in his first start for JTG Daugherty Racing. “But there’s points on the line. There’s things that I need to learn about the Camaro that I feel like I’ve ran so many speedway races not in a Camaro, and there’s definitely different characteristics that the car has just from the little drafting that I did in practice on Saturday.”
Justin Haley and Brendan Gaughan are locked into the 500 based on speed among the non-charter teams leaving five open drivers to fight for the remaining two spots.
Chad Finchum, who will start 21st in the first Duel, is one of those drivers.
“There‘s a couple drivers, (Daniel) Suarez and (Reed) Sorenson that we are going to have to out run,” Finchum said. “We‘ve got to beat them, we’ve got to get in. They are looking at it the same way, they‘ve got to outrun us. We are going to do the best we can…always have to mindful of where they are at. As long as they are behind us I‘ll feel pretty comfortable.”
Suarez is looking to make his first start with Gaunt Brothers Racing after signing with the team late last month. He drove the No. 41 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2019 before being replaced by Cole Custer in the offseason.
“I think if we execute, if we don’t make mistakes, we should be fine,” Suarez said. “We just have to be calm, be patient. I have to do my thing. I feel like actually my car was pretty sporty in the draft. We have an engine that is as good as any other Toyota out there. The problem is that we don’t have the car, the body, and the chassis, not the newest and greatest car that he we can lower the car that much
JJ Yeley and Timmy Hill will battle for a starting spot in the second duel.
“I‘m really hoping that Brendan Gaughan is really fond of his car that he just wants to ride around in the back and just make the Daytona 500 on speed and leave it up to me and Timmy Hill to duke it out for that last spot,” Yeley said.
With a spot secured, Gaughan’s plan is to protect his No. 62 Beard Motorsports/South Point Chevrolet.
“Thursday might be a little boring for the Beard family and the Beard fans,” said Gaughan, who will start 16th in his Duel. “If you are looking for something exciting don’t look for us on Thursday.
“But on Sunday, I only have four chances left. These are my last four. This is the ‘62nd‘ running of the Daytona 500. I never thought I would still be doing this still. I retired in 2013 and thought I would be done and the Beard family has been such a great bunch of people to work for. They give me great Chevrolet race cars every time we show up. I‘m just blessed to be sitting here in this deal doing this.”
MRN’s live coverage of the Bluegreen Vacations Duel will begin at 6 p.m. ET. Jeff Striegle, Alex Hayden, and Rusty Wallace will call the action from the booth. Dave Moody, Mike Bagley and Kyle Rickey will be in the turns with Winston Kelley, Steve Post and Dillon Welch reporting from pit road.