Man, did I just watch a superspeedway race from the early 2000s?
Watching the 2022 Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona was like stepping into a time machine with the four car breakaways, spread out field and green flag racing. For 60 laps across two races, there wasn’t much racing. This was probably due to the apparent lack of supply for some teams and not having backup cars, (unless you’re Joey Logano, but more on that later) and of course the age-old strategy of saving your stuff for the big show on Sunday.
Nonetheless, there were some really interesting storylines coming out of the Duel races. Going back to the theme of old school superspeedway racing, what a huge night for the newly rebranded Roush-Fenway-Keselowski Racing (RFK). After last weekend’s Clash, I was not high on this team being anywhere close to contending.
I know that it was an exhibition race at a track that no one had ever run before, but RFK looked overmatched from the second they unloaded. Even when Brad Keselowski was sitting in second behind Ryan Blaney late in Duel 1, I still didn’t think there was any shot that he would get by one of the best at Daytona during the last couple years. To my surprise, Keselowski lured Blaney into a false sense of security and got right by him with four laps to go, and went on to put the famous #6 back in Victory Lane.
You could tell how much the moment meant to Keselowski, who not only started this new ownership venture in the off-season, but lost his father as well. His father’s number, 29, is riding alongside Brad’s name on the car. Keselowski was all smiles in his post race interview, simply remarking, “This is special.”
Of course, there was the “race within the race” for the final transfer spot in Duel 1. For most of the race, Kaz Grala, driving the Floyd Mayweather owned number 50 Chevrolet was way out in front of JJ Yeley, the other non charter team in the race. During green flag pit stops, Grala was busted for speeding and it looked like it was the end of the road for him. In one of the most impressive drives I have seen in awhile, Grala was somehow able to hook up with a pack of cars and go screaming by Yeley in turn three on the final lap. It was simply impressive to watch, and I have to give major kudos to Grala for putting in maximum effort and having it all pay off.
Next up was Duel 2, and it was much the same for the most part, spread out racing with Fords once again pacing the field. There was a lot of intrigue late though, as Denny Hamlin spun during green flag pit stops and the rest of the Toyotas, such as Kyle Busch, Bubba Wallace and Martin Truex tried to run down the four car pack of Joey Logano, Chris Beuscher, Michael McDowell and Harrison Burton. One lap the pack of Toyotas would seem to be catching the Fords, but in the end it was too little, too late. The final lap saw Beuscher lay back and get a big run on Logano, and then chaos ensued.
Logano threw one of the latest and ill advised blocks I’ve ever seen coming off of Turn 2, and in an accident similar to the one at the end of last season’s Daytona 500, Logano when sailing off of Beuscher’s bumper into the outside wall. Logano’s car collected Harrison Burton’s car along the way. Beuscher was the leader at the time of caution and was declared the winner. This is the first time since 2015 that a team has swept the Duel races, and the fact that RFK has done it is huge for them. They will now line up behind Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman for Sunday’s race.
As for the race for the final spot in the 64th Daytona 500, a familiar face, ironically with ties to RFK, returned to take his place in the race on Sunday. Greg Biffle, affectionately known the world over as “The Biff” easily locked himself in over Timmy Hill for NY Racing in his #44 Chevrolet. Biffle will make his 15th Daytona 500 start.
Overall, the night belonged to RFK, but also Ford. It seems as though the Fords have much more pack speed than they did during qualifying, and it remains to be seen how well they do Sunday. Hendrick Motorsports didn’t have a great night but you know that Chase Elliott and William Byron will still be strong for the 500. The biggest loser of the night was definitely Joey Logano. After crashing on the final lap of Duel 2, Joey will have to go to a backup car, which thankfully they are one of the teams that have one.
Logano took responsibility for the wreck, admitting that it was “a dumb move,” and that he “just blew it.” With supply for building new race cars in such a precarious position, you have to wonder what will happen if Logano loses another car in the often treacherous packs of the Daytona 500.
In summary, the 2022 edition of the Duel at Daytona was certainly fascinating, even if it wasn’t all that exciting at times. We now have RFK, seemingly back from the dead, looking to be a huge factor on Sunday. We saw the return of the early 2000s version of superspeedway racing, which wasn’t always the most exciting racing to watch, but could be interesting when the circumstances are right. Most of all, I think the Next Gen car performed wonderfully, as when Joey Logano crashed, it definitely seemed as though the car was very much rooted to the track while making hard contact at high speed. I think we are certainly in for one of the most fascinating Daytona 500s in recent memory.
Featured image from @Keselowski on Twitter.