Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott won the two Can-Am Duel races Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway.
The Can-Am Duel, two 150-mile/60-lap races, established starting positions 3-40 for the DAYTONA 500; the first race awarded odd-number positions while the second set even-number positions. The front row was “locked in” on Feb. 11 with DAYTONA 500 Qualifying Presented By Kroger, with Alex Bowman (No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet) and Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota) qualifying 1-2. Bowman finished 14th in the first Duel race with Hamlin finishing ninth in the second.
Blaney was followed to the finish in the first race by his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford), the 2015 DAYTONA 500 champion.
“Our car was so fast,” Blaney said. “I thought we (Penske cars) were really able to control the whole race.”
Elliott – the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott – was the DAYTONA 500 polesitter in 2016 and ’17. Thursday, he led the last 33 laps of the second Can-Am Duel race.
“We brought a lot of steam tonight,” Elliott said. “We are excited to get to Sunday. We have the big one on Sunday … that is the main thing.”
Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr., driving the No. 43 Click n’ Close Chevrolet fielded by Richard Petty Motorsports, finished third in the first Can-Am Duel race. That earned a seventh-place start for the DAYTONA 500 – the first time a Petty car will start “The Great American Race” in the top 10 since 2006. Wallace is making a lot of history this Speedweeks; he was the first African-American driver in the DAYTONA 500 since Wendell Scott in 1969.
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet), a two-time DAYTONA 500 champion and seven-time Monster Energy Series champion, wrecked on Lap 9 of the first Can-Am Duel race, collecting the car driven by Aric Almirola (No. 10 Smithfield Ford). Neither could continue after the incident; as a result, Johnson started the DAYTONA 500 in 35th position.
Danica Patrick, racing in the DAYTONA 500 for the final time on Sunday, finished 14th in the second Duel race. She started the DAYTONA 500 in 28th position.
Also Thursday, there were three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practices, in advance of Friday night’s NextEra Energy Resources 250. Grant Enfinger (No. 98 Champion Power Equipment/Curb Records Ford) led the first session with a fast lap of 192.033 mph; the second session was led by Ben Rhodes (No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions/Ride TV Ford) at 192.897; the final practice was led by former series champion Johnny Sauter (No. 21 Allegiant Airlines Chevrolet) at 182.197. Teams used race-day set-ups in the final practice, as opposed to qualifying set-ups.