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NASCAR Cup Twin 150s: Logano and Byron the winners

NCS Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1

• Logano wins as Stenhouse fades on the final lap

Daytona Beach, FL, Feb 13/20 (GRW): Ricky Stenhouse, driving last weekend for the first time in a Chevrolet after all his years in a Ford, won the pole for the Daytona 500. This also put him on the pole for the first of the two 150-mile ‘Duel’ qualifiers which ran the Thursday before the big ‘500' weekend.

For much of the race Stenhouse seemed to be in command and on his way to winning the qualifying race – not that he needed to qualify. Indeed all Stenhouse had to do was finish the race with his car intact and he would be starting from the pole in the ‘500'. Nonetheless he opted to run as fast as he could led the most laps in the race – 27 of the 60 laps, including the first 22 laps.

The race length dictates that everyone has to make at least one pit stop for fuel and the strategy was for each make of car to pit en masse to preserve their drafting advantage. This went badly wrong with the Ford pack when there was miscommunication and Brad Keselowski pinched Daniel Suarez up into Ryan Blaney. Suarez tangled with Blaney and they both crashed. Under the subsequent yellow, Blaney’s crew was able to get the car fixed up enough that he could continue and he finished in 14th place.

As for Suarez, given that he had switched to the Gaunt Brothers team this year (having been shuffled out of his SHR seat to make room for Cole Custer), he had lost his favoured position and he had to race his way into the ‘500' while Custer got a free pass on the basis of the points Suarez had earned in the No. 41 car last year. Suarez’ car was a total wreck after this accident; his race was over and he would sit out the ‘500'.

“There was no communication,” said Suarez. “The 2 car (Keselowski) all of a sudden started to slow down, and obviously it was either wreck him or go to the right, and I thought the 12 (Blaney) was going to give me a little more room, but obviously he didn’t. The 2 car, he started getting his hand out of the window super, super late (to signal a pit stop), and I didn’t see him. When I started going out, the 12 was there.”

Before this caution, the field had been broken up by the green-flag pit stops but now they formed up into one big pack again with Logano and Stenhouse trading the lead back and forth. Logano now seemed to have the upper hand and, even though Stenhouse took the white flag in the lead, Logano surged forward on the final lap to take the checker while Stenhouse, lacking a drafting partner, fell back to eighth at the finish.

“It feels so good,” said Logano, “Obviously, it’s the Duels, not the Daytona 500, but momentum is momentum. (Spotter) T.J. (Majors) does such a great job up on the roof understanding the draft.”

Click HERE for the results of Duel 1

 PHOTO NCS DUEL 2 BYRON DIS NCS CheckeredFlag2 021320William Byron crosses the finish line to win the Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NCS Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2

• Byron-Johnson tag team drafts to a 0ne-Two finish

Daytona Beach, FL, Feb 13/20 (GRW): Kevin Harvick was the favorite to win the second Duel and he did lead the most laps – 34 – in the race. He was in front on lap 57 of the 60-lap race but then William Byron with help from his teammate Jimmy Johnson pushed ahead and they pulled way from the rest of the field, coming around to take the checker in tandem while Harvick fell back to fourth behind Kyle Larson – making it a turnaround one-two-three finish for the Chevrolets.

Even though this is Byron’s third full season in the Cup series, he has yet to live up to the promise he showed in the lower series. Perhaps this hook-up of the young upstart Byron and the veteran Johnson may foreshadow a winning combination for the duo this season.

The race ran the full distance with only one caution period and the pit stop cycle mid-race created no upsets. The only yellow came on lap 43 of the 60-lap race and Harvick was able to stay in command though this mid-race caution which came after the single round of green-flag pit stops..

Cup rookie Cole Custer, who had displaced Suarez from his SHR seat, finished fifth while Eric Jones, who had won the Busch Clash last Sunday in dramatic fashion, was sixth.

“No, there wasn’t any Chevy orders or anything like that,” Byron said. “We just did a good job of working together. Kurt (Busch) was a great pusher and great helper. I really had a lot of trust in him. I was really trying to go with one (lap) to go, but I had enough momentum out of the tri-oval.

“Watching the old races, that’s where the momentum kind of lines up. I didn’t know if I would get that kind of same momentum once everybody started pushing with one to go. Made it there, got to second. I guess Kevin played really nice and didn’t pull a big block… Excited for the 500.”

Alex Bowman, who had started on pole as a result of qualifying second-fastest the previous Sunday, finished this race in 15th place – not that it mattered given that he was locked in on the front row for the start of the ‘500'.

Click HERE for the results of the Duel 2.

The next NASCAR Cup race will be the Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 16.

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