Thursday night are the Twin 150 Duel races at Daytona International Speedway, which means one thing…
We’re that much closer to the Great American Race.
We already got some on-track action at Daytona last weekend, with Daytona 500 qualifying happening on Sunday followed by the Busch Clash exhibition race. There were only 18 cars that participated in that event (with just five finishing). This Thursday, we’ll see slightly larger fields, as there are 22 cars in Duel #1 with 21 cars in Duel #2. The first race is scheduled to start around 7:00 pm ET.
Now, for those new or unfamiliar with NASCAR, the twin Duel races are not points-paying events, but they do have significance, as they determine the starting lineup for the Daytona 500. With qualifying last Sunday, only the front row was set–Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. is on the pole with Alex Bowman starting 2nd–and now the rest of the field will be determined by the finishing order of the two Duel races on Thursday night. The results of the first Duel will set the inside line’s starting lineup for the Daytona 500 (odd numbers) while the second Duel will set the outside line’s.
3 Things to Watch For in the 2020 Duels at Daytona
Of course, there’s still some more lingering uncertainties that will be answered on Thursday night, so let’s go over those.
#1. Which drivers will miss the Daytona 500?
The Daytona 500 is the biggest race of the year for many teams because it has the largest purse and prizes. Therefore, we often see more cars attempting to qualify for the race than the field has spots available. This year, those numbers are 43 and 40, respectively, meaning three drivers will go home on Thursday. Heading into qualifying, these drivers were not locked in to the race:
- Justin Haley
- Reed Sorenson
- Chad Finchum
- J.J. Yeley
- Brendan Gaughan
- Timmy Hill
- Daniel Suarez
Because of their qualifying speed, though, Justin Haley and Brendan Gaughan will race in the Daytona 500 on Sunday no matter how they finish on Thursday night. That leaves five drivers remaining, fighting for two spots. In Duel #1, the highest finisher between Reed Sorenson, Daniel Suarez, and Chad Finchum will make it into this year’s Great American Race. In Duel #2, the highest finisher between JJ Yeley and Timmy Hill will make it into the big show.
#2. Will the Chevrolets continue to be slow in race conditions?
That is the car that won the Busch Clash on Sunday. And while it was awesome to see Denny Hamlin push his teammate, Erik Jones, to the win, it had to be completely disheartening for any Chevrolet team at Daytona, considering Austin Dillon (in a Chevy) had a nearly flawless car on the restart, with Kyle Larson’s battered Chevy up there as well.
With that being said, it wasn’t completely surprising. The Chevrolets struggled all race to keep up with the Fords and Toyotas, and, honestly, it’s been that way for a couple of years now. Yes, Chevrolet has the power to do well in single-car qualifying runs at these big superspeedways, but once they get in the race, they’re at a clear disadvantage. High-finishing Chevrolets at Daytona and Talladega over the last couple of years have been a direct result of attrition.
#3. Will it be a wreckfest like the Busch Clash?
It was a very expensive day for most teams last Sunday. Hell, there were only five cars running at the end of the day! And only four of them were on the lead lap to challenge for the win! But don’t forget that the Busch Clash was literally a ‘win or nothing’ event. It was an exhibition race that had no effect on anything.
These Duels on Thursday night, though, not only determine the final starting order for the Daytona 500, but the teams are also racing the cars that they have ready for the Great American Race on Sunday. So if a driver does wreck out and total his car, the team will be forced to get the backup out for the actual race.
That’s not to say that wrecks don’t happen in the Duel races, though. Hell, this is still Daytona we’re talking about. But, typically, at least one of these two races is very tame. Not to mention, there are drivers that actually want to start further back in Sunday’s Daytona 500, so they purposely slow down and ride around so as to (hopefully) not get caught up in a wreck.
BONUS: A FREE Fantasy NASCAR Contest for the Duels
Just like we did for the Clash, Fantasy Racing Online is offering a FREE Fantasy NASCAR Contest for the Duels races on Thursday night, with $150 in cash prizes available. Click here for more information on that.