Aric Almirola wins Daytona Duel 1


Aric Almirola held off Christopher Bell to win Thursday night’s first Daytona Duel qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway.

As a result, he will start third in Sunday’s Daytona 500 behind the front row of pole sitter Alex Bowman and William Byron.

Almirola led 52 of 60 laps to claim the first Duel win of his career. He had finished third in his Duel in 2019 and second in his Duel in 2020.

MORE: Daytona Duel 1 results

Ryan Preece narrowly edged Ty Dillon at the checkered flag for fifth place to be the top finisher among non-chartered cars. Preece’s finish allowed Austin Cindric to make the Daytona 500 via his qualifying lap.

Cindric, the reigning Xfinity Series champion, finished 16th after a pit road speeding penalty on Lap 34.

Ty Dillon and Timmy Hill failed to make it in.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Entering a high-profile ride with Joe Gibbs Racing, Christopher Bell’s second-place finish is a boost of momentum going into Sunday. “That was kind of a first for me being able to lead the pack and I’ve got to work on leading lanes and stuff, but we’ve got a really competitive Camry and I’m excited to see what we’ve got on Sunday,” he said … With Ryan Preece making the Daytona 500 field on speed and then finishing as top non-chartered driver on Thursday, it appears his lack of worry entering Speedweek was warranted.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Gaunt Brothers Racing has failed to make the Daytona 500 in each of the last two seasons with Daniel Suarez in 2020 and Ty Dillon in 2021 … Alex Bowman finished 20th after having to work through a potential engine issue in mid-race. If the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team has to change the engine, Bowman will have to start from the rear on Sunday … Cole Custer spun and hit the wall late in the race, continuing a tough Speedweek; a mechanical issue forced him out early in Tuesday’s Busch Clash.

NOTABLE: Aric Almirola will seek his second career Cup win at Daytona on Sunday. His first Cup win came there in July 2014 for Richard Petty Motorsports.

NEXT: The season-opening Daytona 500 is Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET (FOX).


Alex Bowman confident as he returns to racing from back injury


CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman watched the rain-filled skies over Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday with more than a touch of disappointment.

As weather threatened to cancel Saturday night’s scheduled NASCAR Cup Series practice at the speedway, Bowman saw his chances to testing his car — and his body — dissolving in the raindrops. NASCAR ultimately cancelled practice and qualifying because of rain.

MORE: Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup practice, qualifying

Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident last month and has missed three Cup races while he recovers. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the season’s longest race, is scheduled to mark his return to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

“It would have been really nice to kickstart that with practice today,” Bowman said. “I haven’t raced or competitively driven a race car in a month. I’m trying to understand where my rusty areas are going to be and where I’m still good.”

Bowman ran 200 laps in a test season at North Wilkesboro Speedway this week, but, of course, that doesn’t compare with the faster speeds and tougher G-forces he’ll experience over 400 laps Sunday at CMS.

Bowman admitted that he is still experiencing pain from the back injury — his car flipped several times — and that he expects some pain during the race. But he said he is confident he’ll be OK and that the longer race distance won’t be an issue.

“I broke my back a month ago, and there’s definitely things that come along with that for a long time,” he said. “I have some discomfort here and there and there are things I do that don’t feel good. That’s just part of it. It’s stuff I’ll have to deal with. But, for the most part, I’m back to normal.

“I’m easing back into being in the gym. I’m trying to be smart with things. If I twist the wrong way, sometimes it hurts. In the race car at the end of a six-hour race, I’m probably not going to be the best.”

The sprint car crash interrupted what had been a fine seasonal start for Bowman. Although winless, he had three top fives and six top 10s in the first 10 races.

“I’m excited to be back,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off and be strong right out of the gate.”

He said he hopes to return to short-track racing but not in the near future.

“Someday I want to get back in a sprint car or midget,” he said. “I felt like we were just getting rolling in a sprint car. That night we were pretty fast. Definitely a bummer there. That’s something I really want to conquer and be competitive at in the World of Outlaws or High Limits races. Somebody I’ll get back to that. It’s probably smart if I give my day job a little alone time for a bit.”




Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup: Rain cancels qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the front row after wet weather cancelled Saturday night qualifying.

Rain pelted the CMS area much of the day Saturday, and NASCAR announced at 3:45 p.m. that Cup practice and qualifying, scheduled for Saturday night, had been cancelled.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

The starting field was set by the NASCAR rulebook.

Following Byron and Harvick in the starting top 10 will be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The elimination of the practice session was particularly problematic for Alex Bowman, scheduled to return to racing Sunday after missing three weeks with a back injury, and Jimmie Johnson, who will be starting only his third race this year. Johnson will start 37th — last in the field.

Charlotte Cup starting lineup

Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup Series practice, qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers will start the longest race of the season with no practice or qualifying.

Wet weather and predictions of more to come led NASCAR to cancel Saturday night’s Cup Series practice and qualifying in mid-afternoon. The field for Sunday’s 600-mile race was set by the NASCAR rulebook, placing William Byron and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the  scheduled 6 p.m. start.

MORE: Charlotte Cup starting lineup

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

Weather also could be an issue Sunday as more rain is predicted for the speedway area.

Drivers were scheduled to practice at 7 p.m. Saturday. That session was to be followed by qualifying at 7:45 p.m. The cancellations were announced at 3:45 p.m.

The time-trial cancellation marked the first time in 64 years that qualifying has been canceled for the 600.

Charlotte Xfinity race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — Persistent rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Monday.

The race is scheduled to start at noon ET. It will be televised by FS1 and broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Driver introductions and other pre-race activities were held at the track Saturday, but rain that had dampened the track in the morning hours returned. After several attempts at drying the track, the race was postponed after heavier rain returned in mid-afternoon.

Justin Allgaier will start the race from the pole position.