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What All Happened In The 2024 Duels at Daytona?

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What’s Happening?

The first two races of the 2024 Daytona Speedweeks are officially in the books! The first half of Duel 1 was rather tame save for a close call getting onto pit road with Martin Truex Jr. In the closing laps, there was a small multi-car incident that collected 7-time Cup Series Champ, Jimmie Johnson, making for a real nail-biting finish. Similarly, the first half of Duel 1 was relatively tame as well…that was until all broke loose shortly after a cycle of green flag pitstops.

Toyotas Reign Supreme

Even though they were fairly slow during Wednesday night’s qualifying session, Toyotas flexed some muscle in Thursday night’s Duels at Daytona. The manufacturer got to the front fairly early on with the likes of new drivers to their stable Jimmie Johnson and Erik Jones in Duel 1 and with the staples Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace in Duel 2. But it would be 23XI driver, Tyler Reddick who would take the first checkered flag of Daytona Speedweeks in Duel 1.

After the race, Kyle Busch went to go talk to the driver of the No. 45 Monster Energy Toyota. To say that he was elated would be a massive understatement.

Despite his late-race dominance in Duel #2, it would be Denny Hamlin’s teammate Christopher Bell who scored the victory for his No. 20 Dewalt crew. With this win, Toyota is now 3 for 3 on the 2024 Cup Series Season so far. Will their dominance continue?

The Big One

After a squeaky clean first half, The Big One broke out as the laps wound down in Duel #2. This massive pileup collected nearly half the field including defending Cup Series Champion Ryan Blaney. Other heavy hitters such as Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and William Byron were also involved. Blaney took a scary head-on hit into the outside wall in the trioval. You can watch footage of the crash in the video below.

After being released from the infield care center, Ryan Blaney had some thoughts about this style of racing and aggressive pushing.

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Who Showed Speed

While Fords and Chevys dominated time trials on Wednesday night, it was the Toyotas that seemed to do the best in the draft. In the first duel, Jimmie Johnson and his Legacy Motor Club teammate, Erik Jones made it to the front in a hurry. Tyler Reddick went on to win the race as Jimmie raced his way into the Daytona 500 field in style. 23XI driver, Bubba Wallace as well as LMC driver John Hunter Nemechek both showed convincing speed in the second Duel. And, of course, there were the JGR guys who dominated the second Duel in the closing laps. Keep an eye on the Toyotas come 500 time on Sunday.

Who Was Lacking?

Particularly in Duel 1, Fords seemed to drop like a rock. They hung in there a little bit better in Duel #2 but they seemingly had nothing for the Toyotas.

Drivers of note who had issues in the Duels include Daniel Hemric in his No. 31 car for Kaulig. Hemric’s Chevy was totaled in a late-race incident in Duel #1 which also happened to collect the likes of Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon.

Who Made The Show?

Racing his way into the Daytona 500 (barely) in dramatic fashion was no other than Jimmie Johnson. While Ole 7-Time was convincingly fast in the opening laps of the first duel, he faded after struggling to get off pit road following green flag pit stops. This put him mired back in traffic and in harm’s way which would ultimately see him get caught up in Daniel Hemric’s wreck. Luckily, there was minimal damage to his No. 84 Toyota. In the closing laps of the race, Jimmie Johnson would play touch-and-go with J. J. Yaley before finally, on the last lap, securing the position to make the 66th running of the Great American Race.

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The other driver who was able to race his way into the big show on Sunday was Kaz Grala. For most of Duel Race 2, he was on the outside looking in. But, after being able to capitalize on the unfortunate luck of fellow Open entry, B. J. McLeod, and with the drafting help of fellow Ford driver, David Ragan, Grala was able to qualify for his third Daytona 500 in 3 attempts. That’s an amazing feat for sure!

Jimmie Johnson and Kaz Grala join Anthony Alfredo and David Ragan as the 4 open cars to make the 66th running of the Daytona 500.

Who’s Going Home?

Unfortunately, with Johnson, Grala, Alfredo, and Ragan all making the show, that means that 2 drivers were forced to pack it up tonight and head to the house.

The first driver to go home in Duel #1 was J. J. Yaley, driving the No. 44 entry for NY Racing. Our friends at Fronstretch caught up with him after the race. You can watch his very disappointed reaction in the clip below.

When B. J. McLeod and his Live Fast Motorsports team pulled into Daytona International Speedway, they unloaded with a blank black car. The hope was for B. J. to race his way into the race and secure sponsorship heading into Sunday’s Daytona 500. And despite an early strong showing with B. J.’s No. 78 rocketing into the top 3, he got caught up in the Big One after green flag pitstops. While his car wasn’t damaged too badly, it clearly lost some speed in the closing laps. B. J. just narrowly missed the 66th running of the Daytona 500 to a hard-charging Kaz Grala.

Conclusion

Well, what do you think, race fans and Daily Downforce readers? What do you make of the Duels? What surprised you the most? What did you see coming from a mile away? What do you make of the Big One with all those Big Names being tangled up in it? Let us know! And be sure to keep it right here at DailyDownforce.com for all the latest news stories and discussions about the greatest sport in the world, NASCAR! And be sure to follow us on all our social media platforms for real-time discussions about the live on-track activity.

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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