Aric Almirola Wins Bluegreen Vacations Duel One At Daytona

Holly Cain

NASCAR Wire Service

Aric Almirola celebrate victory in the first Daytona Duel Thursday at Daytona International Speedway (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Florida native Aric Almirola drove to a convincing victory in the opening Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona qualifying race Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway. 

Almirola’s No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford led a dominating 52 of the 60 laps and held off Christopher Bell’s No 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota by a mere .041-seconds for the Tampa native’s first victory in the Daytona 500 field-setting race.

Ryan Newman, who was involved in a frightening last lap crash in last year’s Daytona 500, finished third, followed by Joey Logano and Ryan Preece, whose fifth place effort was important regarding the transfer positions into the 40-car Daytona 500 lineup.

Preece edged Ty Dillon by a scant .04-second at the finish line to race his way into the Daytona 500. That gave reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric a starting bid based on qualifying speed – despite his 16th-place finish in the Duel – and sent Ty Dillon home.

Three of the four transfer position were evident after the first Duel – with Preece, Cindric, and David Ragan (who qualified on speed). Another will be determined in the second Duel.

“First of all, I get the bonehead of the race award for speeding on the last section of pit road when I nailed everything else the whole night that I didn’t know how to do,” the Team Penske driver Cindric said of receiving a speeding penalty after a mid-race pit stop.

“I’m obviously really happy to get the Verizon 5G Ford Mustang into the big show. Obviously, a lot for me left to learn, but racing on the biggest stage against the best drivers, it’s an amazing opportunity.” 

The Fords – specifically Almirola – dominated Duel 1, spending most of the race bumper-to-bumper in varying order out front.  Almirola and Logano, the 2015 Daytona 500 winner ran 1-2 for most of the race. There were nine lead changes among five drivers. 

After the race, the Tampa, Fla. native Almirola smiled and mentioned the good run for Tampa sports – a nod to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl win last week.

“Great way to start Speedweeks,” Almirola said. “This thing is really fast and I can’t wait until Sunday. Just proud of everybody back at the shop, Doug Yates and Ford Motor Company all of our partners.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to sit here and do an interview at the start/finish line.

And he added a message for FOX Sports race announcer, Kansas City football fan Clint Bowyer, “Things are going right for Tampa Bay, right Clint Bowyer.”

Daytona 500 pole-winner Alex Bowman played it safe early in the race, hanging toward the rear initially. He ultimately had to pit several times for his crew to look under the hood of his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He finished 20th out of 24 cars in his race, four laps down.

Two-time defending Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, who is trying to become the first driver in history to win three consecutive versions of NASCAR’s Great American Race, finished 13th. He had to push his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota back into the pits after the race because he ran out of fuel on the final lap – after taking the white flag in fourth position.

Kyle Larson, who is making his first start in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5, finished seventh. Daniel Suarez finished eighth in the No. 99 Chevrolet marking his Trackhouse Racing team’s debut. and Erik Jones finished 17th in his first Daytona points race with Richard Petty Motorsports.

NASCAR Cup Series Race – Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Thursday, February 11, 2021

               1. (2)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 60.

               2. (4)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 60.

               3. (12)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 60.

               4. (11)  Joey Logano, Ford, 60.

               5. (5)  Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 60.

               6. (17)  Ty Dillon(i), Toyota, 60.

               7. (8)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 60.

               8. (6)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 60.

               9. (14)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 60.

               10. (18)  Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 60.

               11. (3)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 60.

               12. (9)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 60.

               13. (7)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 60.

               14. (13)  Cole Custer, Ford, 60.

               15. (16)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 60.

               16. (10)  Austin Cindric(i), Ford, 59.

               17. (15)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 59.

               18. (19)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 58.

               19. (20)  Timmy Hill(i), Ford, 57.

               20. (1)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 56.

               21. (21)  Cody Ware, Chevrolet, 56.

               22. (22)  Josh Bilicki, Ford, Overheating, 14.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  191.966 mph.

Time of Race:  0 Hrs, 46 Mins, 53 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .041 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  0 for  laps.

Lead Changes:  9 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Bowman 0;A. Almirola 1-2;D. Suarez 3-4;C. Bell 5;A. Almirola 6;C. Bell 7-8;A. Almirola 9-33;D. Hamlin 34;T. Reddick 35-36;A. Almirola 37-60.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Aric Almirola 4 times for 52 laps; Christopher Bell 2 times for 3 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 2 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 2 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 1 lap.


  1. Who’d a figured that? Stenhouse had been fast and now starts the 500 from the cheap seats and Preece in the part time, non chartered team car trying to survive race by race just missing the elite top 10. Seemed to be every reason for the 37 crew to be demoralized and simply hit their spots but that’s not the case at all. They are conceding nothing as they do their best real life imitation of the fictitious Rocky Balboa. Every single qualifying run and every single finish critical to Preece’s future at the top of the NASCAR pecking order. Can’t say it’s a good start because they finished 2020 strong but it’s surprising nonetheless.
    I know I was curious about how the new 23XI team would kick things off. So far pretty swell.
    Would like to consider Wallace an outsider underdog. Can’t do it with a current driver as part team owner and the alliance with RCR. Would like to consider Wallace the underfunded, undermanned team challenging racing royalties teams that want for nothing. That doesn’t work either. They bought the charter and everything needed to win with money and sponsorship being the least of their concerns. He’s still the black guy however. Embraced by the powers that be of NASCAR but still hated by many in the fan base for the guy that lead the charge to get the stars and bars banned from NASCAR races. That thinking won’t change anytime soon for many.
    So it’s our Rocky Balboa being Ryan Preece who pretty much any race fan could hope to see do good. Plus one Mr. Bubba Wallace and owner Michael Jordan that I’m sure many are actively hoping to see fail. Wallace starting 6th and interestingly one of his bosses starting 25th. That’s what’s firing me up so let the games begin. Plus it would be nice to see Stenhouse do well also right behind our man Ryan and Hamlin charge to the front finishing right behind Wallace.

  2. Staying the course with my Prediction… Preece will find a way to Win a Cup Race before he hangs up His Helmet. It may be with JTG or a fill in role in another team in a spot start for any numbers of Reasons.. We have all seen the many times a team needed a fill in Driver for a Birth of a Child, Injury, Suspensions, driver gets in trouble, driver gets fired. ETC.etc……. We all know [Right Bobf and rest of Race Day Conn crew] that Ryan has the talent, One of these Owners will see His drive and determination in lesser equipment and ask the question ?? I wonder what Ryan could do in our top notch equipment..?? in the words of
    Al Davis ” JUST WIN BABY ” !!!!!! and good things will happen …..

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