DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Five days after missing out on his third-straight Daytona 500 pole, Chase Elliott found redemption at the ‘World Center of Racing’ by winning the second Can-Am Duel at Daytona on Thursday night.
Elliott dominated the second-half of his 150-mile qualifying race under the lights, taking the lead on lap 27 and never relinquishing control again en route to his second Duel win in the last three years.
Beating runner-up Kevin Harvick to the finish line by .081 of a second, Elliott will roll off fourth for Sunday’s Daytona 500 as he continues to seek his first-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win.
“Our NAPA Camaro ZL1 was very fast tonight,” said Elliott, who led the final 34 laps uncontested and will start fourth in Sunday’s Daytona 500. “Everybody at HMS and in the Hendrick engine shop does a great job, and we had a lot of steam tonight. I’m really proud of Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and our entire group and appreciate all our partners. We’re excited to get to Sunday. We did this last year too, and we know we’ve got the big one to go on Sunday. That’s the main thing.”
After a chaotic opening Duel race, the second installment was much calmer, with only one caution flag slowing the pace during the 60-lap distance.
Following Erik Jones’ spin off turn two at lap 12 that collected Kyle Larson and Matt DiBenedetto, the race ran green to the finish upon its resumption on the 16th round.
Despite the change in racing demeanor, Elliott warned that Sunday’s Daytona 500 is liable to be crazy, with the cars being much more unstable in the draft than they were a year ago.
“I was kind of trying a bunch of stuff because I didn’t really know what to do,” he admitted. “This new package is a little different and the way these cars draft, I think, is a little strange compared to what we’ve seen in the past. I don’t 100 percent know that anybody has it figured out.”
“I think we’re all learning and seeing what the best position is to be in and when you want to be there. We’ll go to work on Sunday and try to go get them there.”
Kevin Harvick had Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer behind him when he started a run to the front with two laps left, but couldn’t get past Elliott and had to settle for second.
“I knew it was going to take two moves (to get around Elliott),” said Harvick. “I knew I had to try to get by Denny (Hamlin) before I was going to have a chance to win the race. We were able to make that move pretty good, but then the 21 (Paul Menard) and 14 (Bowyer) got side-by-side over there.”
“After that, Clint got back to my bumper, but my car was so loose. I didn’t want to pull it really hard to the right because it just felt like it was going to spin out all night. We definitely have to work on the handling of our Jimmy John’s/Busch Ford to make it better, but we’ve got a fast car and I’m excited.”
Jone rallied from his early spin to pass Bowyer in the final hundred yards for third, with Bowyer and Kyle Busch completing the top five.
Polesitter Denny Hamlin led the first 13 laps of the second Duel and was out front for 18 circuits in total, but faded to eighth after running as high as second in the closing stages.
Youth was served during both Duels, after 24-year-old Ryan Blaney led Team Penske to their third Daytona qualifying race victory during the first Can-Am Duel earlier in the night.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 24-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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