Aric Almirola and Austin Dillon win Daytona qualifying races

Nick Bromberg
·3-min read

Aric Almirola will start third in Sunday's Daytona 500 and Austin Dillon could start as high as second.

Almirola held off a charge from Joey Logano thanks to a push from Christopher Bell to win the first Duel qualifying race on Thursday night. Almirola had control of the race for the final laps, but it was only a matter of time before Logano made a move from second.

He made that move entering the final two corners. But Almirola was able to use the side draft to slow Logano and got a push from Bell -- who had pushed Logano to the potential race-winning pass -- to get to the finish line first.

Ryan Preece was the highest-finishing non-charter car in the race. Since he automatically qualified for Sunday's race on Wednesday night in front row qualifying, his move around Ty Dillon on the final lap put Austin Cindric into the Daytona 500.

Ty Dillon and Timmy Hill will not race on Sunday.

Almirola could end up starting first if Alex Bowman's team has to change engines. Bowman won the pole on Wednesday night and had an engine problem in the first Duel. If his team has to replace his car's engine, he will have to start at the back of the field on Sunday. That will move Almirola up into the No. 1 starting spot. The first Duel race sets the starting spots for positions Nos. 3-39 while the second Duel sets Nos. 4-40.

The first Duel race did not have any cautions and the only incident came on the final lap when Cole Custer briefly lost control and hit the wall.

Dillon wins Duel 2

The second Duel was a little more eventful. Dillon won the race with a last-lap pass of Bubba Wallace. 

Wallace got the lead on the final lap with a three-wide pass of quasi-teammate Martin Truex Jr. But Dillon had a run with the help of Kevin Harvick and Wallace was helpless to stop them without potentially crashing a bunch of cars and Dillon got the win.

Dillon will officially start fourth but could start as high as second and on the front row after William Byron was caught in a crash in the final laps of the race. Garrett Smithley made an ill-advised three-wide move exiting the trioval in an attempt to gain positions and caused a crash that collected Brad Keselowski, Byron, Ross Chastain and others. 

The damage to Byron's car is significant enough that he'll likely have to go to a backup car. That means he'd have to forfeit his No. 2 starting spot before the race starts on Sunday and drop to the back of the field. 

Duel 1 results

1. Aric Almirola (starts 3rd)

2. Christopher Bell (5th)

3. Ryan Newman (7th)

4. Joey Logano (9th)

5. Ryan Preece (11th)

6. Ty Dillon (DNQ)

7. Kyle Larson (13th)

8. Daniel Suarez (15th)

9. Michael McDowell (17th)

10. Jamie McMurray (19th)

11. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (21st)

12. Matt DiBenedetto (23rd)

13. Denny Hamlin (25th)

14. Cole Custer (27th)

15. Tyler Reddick (29th)

16. Austin Cindric (39th)

17. Erik Jones (31st)

18. Quin Houff (33rd)

19. Timmy Hill (DNQ)

20. Alex Bowman (1st)

21. Cody Ware (35th)

22. Josh Bilicki (37th)

Duel 2 results

1. Austin Dillon (4th)

2. Bubba Wallace (6th)

3. Kevin Harvick (8th)

4. Kyle Busch (10th)

5. Chase Elliott (12th)

6. Ryan Blaney (14th)

7. Corey LaJoie (16th)

8. David Ragan (18th)

9. Kurt Busch (20th)

10. Chris Buescher (22nd)

11. Brad Keselowski (24th)

12. Martin Truex Jr. (26th)

13. Joey Gase (28th)

14. Kaz Grala (40th)

15. Chase Briscoe (30th)

16. Garrett Smithley (DNQ)

17. Derrike Cope (32nd)

18. Noah Gragson (DNQ)

19. William Byron (2nd)

20. Ross Chastain (34th)

21. Anthony Alfredo (36th)

22. BJ McLeod (38th)

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