In what felt like the final 60 laps of a Daytona 500, Austin Dillon prevailed to earn a spot on the second row for Sunday after a last lap, frontstretch pass of Bubba Wallace to win the second Daytona Duel.
The biggest storyline for the second Duel was the battle for the final open spot. David Ragan already clinched his spot in Wednesday’s qualifying session, but Noah Gragson, Kaz Grala and Garrett Smithley all fought for the final transfer spot.
Grala got into trouble with around 20 to go as Chase Briscoe spun coming out of turn two and collected multiple cars including rookie Anthony Alfredo and BJ McLeod. Grala continued, but Alfredo bowed out of the race as his car was too damaged to continue.
Even with the wreck, drivers continued to race aggressive with noticeable pushing, cars getting loose and daring moves nearly culminating in big wrecks. However, the big wreck came late as Smithley attempted to shoot a gap between Brad Keselowski and Gragson. There was not enough room and Smithley turned Keselowski into Gragson, causing a massive accident into turn one.
William Byron, who qualified on the front row for the 500, was involved in the wreck and will have to go to a backup car for Sunday and drop to the rear of the field. His teammate and pole sitter Alex Bowman may face the same fate after some engine concerns in Duel No. 1.
The race went to overtime and the three Toyotas of Wallace, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch battled Dillon and Kevin Harvick for the race win. Truex led on the final lap, but both Wallace and Dillon got huge runs down the backstretch. This is where controversy struck as Rick Ware Racing Chevy Derrike Cope was nearly stopped on the backstretch just below the yellow line.
Truex tried blocking the outside line, but couldn’t stay in front of Wallace and Wallace took the lead in turns three and four. With Harvick locked on his rear bumper, Dillon got a huge run down the frontstretch and Wallace had no chance of blocking him. The two made slight contact coming to the checkered flag and Dillon took the checkers.
Due to Gragson and Smithley’s wrecks, Ragan was the highest finisher of the open cars, allowing Grala to lock his spot in for Sunday.
Here is the projected lineup for Sunday’s Daytona 500: