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Race report

Logano, Almirola win NASCAR Cup Duels at Daytona

Reigning NASCAR Cup champion Joey Logano and Aric Almirola won out in the pre-Daytona 500 qualifying races, the latter escaping a near-wreck on the final lap.

Watch: NASCAR Exclusive: Logano returns to Victory Lane

Contesting the opening duel, Logano grabbed control of the race following his green-flag pit stop on Lap 31 of 60 and held off a last-lap charge by Christopher Bell to claim the win by 0.018 seconds.

At the start of the final lap, Bell and his #20 Toyota was able to pull out of line without any tow assistance and nearly powered past Logano under his own steam before settling for second.

At the halfway mark, Ryan Blaney was leading - having picked up the baton from poleman Alex Bowman - followed by Wallace and Logano, but were all due to make pitstops.

On Lap 31, much of the field came in to pit with Logano the first out of the pitlane to move into the lead over Kevin Harvick. Logano maintained that small advantage over Harvick, who began discussing scenarios with his team to make a move on Logano for the lead.

Logano remained out front of a single-file line with five laps to go with Harvick tucked in close behind him, but the Stewart-Haas Racing driver eventually dropped out contention as Bell powered forward to challenge Logano's Penske-run Ford Mustang.

Blaney, who had led up until the pitstops at half-distance, ended up third, with RFK Racing's Chris Buescher fourth and Michael McDowell fifth.

Zane Smith ended up eighth and the top-finishing non-chartered team, which locks him into Sunday’s Daytona 500 field. Jimmie Johnson was already locked in based on his qualifying speed.

Almirola escaped a near-wreck on the last lap and held off Austin Cindric to win Thursday night’s second Daytona 500 qualifying race.

Start action Duel 2

Start action Duel 2

Photo by: NASCAR Media

Todd Gilliland had made his way into the lead with two of 60 laps remaining and was running side-by-side with Almirola at the start of the final lap when he got hit from behind and dipped down on the apron.

The move sent cars scrambling, allowing Almirola and Cindric to escape out front and Almirola took the checkered flag by 0.122 seconds, giving Ford a sweep of both qualifying races.

Almirola had made his way around poleman Kyle Larson to take the lead at the start of the race, and the two traded positions until NASCAR was forced to display a caution on Lap 6 as the side window from Justin Haley’s #31 Chevrolet came loose and dropped on the backstretch.

All of the drivers took the opportunity to pit with Almirola first out of the pitlane, and the race returned to green on Lap 11 with the #10 followed by Larson, Cindric and Kyle Busch.

Busch gave Larson a big push on the restart to send him back into the lead, and the two raced side-by-side through laps 12 and 13 - with Larson finally pulling away on lap 14.

Busch then moved back out front on Lap 15, as Trackhouse's Daniel Suarez moved into second and Ryan Preece ran third.

At the halfway mark, Busch continued to lead followed by Suarez and Larson. There was discussion whether some cars would have enough fuel to make it to the end if there was not another caution.

On Lap 41, Suarez got into the back of Busch and sent his No. 8 Chevrolet into the wall which collected several others. Among those involved were Austin Hill, Harrison Burton, Riley Herbst and Travis Pastrana.

With the cars of both Hill and Pastrana ending up in the garage, the final transfer spot for the Daytona 500 was claimed by Daly.

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