Daytona Duel takeaways: Dillon brother dichotomy, Bubba Wallace’s lessons

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The brothers Dillon were both part of Thursday night’s exciting finishes in the Duels at Daytona International Speedway.

One brother was left celebrating. The other was left on the outside looking in.

The second Duel saw Austin Dillon challenge and then outmaneuver Bubba Wallace for the win on the final lap of overtime.

His victory came after Ty Dillon, driving a non-chartered entry for Gaunt Brothers Racing, was narrowly denied entry to the Daytona 500 in the first duel.

“I thought (Ty) did a great job tonight,” Austin Dillon said after his win in Duel 2. “I’m really bummed for him. He took the 96 car into a position that they needed to be to make the race. (Gaunt Brothers Racing) didn’t make it last year.

“I felt like he did a really good job of driving that car. They were fast. It’s just a bummer that he’s got to go home and you see other cars that he beat that are going to be in the race.”

MORE: Daytona 500 starting lineup

Ty Dillon, who has been relegated to part-time racing since the demise of Germain Racing over the offseason, looked set to enter “The Great American Race” on the final lap of Duel 1.

But in the rush to the checkered flag, the field closed in on the leaders – including Ryan Preece, who caught and beat Ty Dillon to the line for fifth place.

As the fastest non-chartered driver from Wednesday’s single-car qualifying, Preece was already in the Daytona 500. But with Preece being the highest-finishing non-chartered driver from Duel 1, Cindric made the Daytona 500 on his qualifying speed.

Gaunt Brothers Racing summed it up with one word on Twitter: Heartbreak.

“It’s been just unique this offseason for me with the ups and downs,” Ty Dillon said. “It’s a blessing to get to drive a race car in NASCAR first of all – and you get so close to being in the Daytona 500 again. It’s tough.”

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime to continue to drive race cars. I believe in myself that I can get it done in these races and to finish sixth and not get any reward for it is hard. I’ll get the great reward of spending time with my kids on Sunday and we’ll probably watch the race. It definitely hurts.”

Despite the setback, Austin Dillon found his younger brother to be in “really good spirits” when they met afterwards.

“I just said, ‘Man, I feel for you, in other terms,” Austin Dillon said. “He looked at me and said, ‘God has other plans for me.’

“He was just calm in that moment of, like, adrenaline and hurt. It was cool to hear it from him.”

Duel disaster for Hendrick?

Hendrick Motorsports’ front row for Sunday is in jeopardy following Thursday’s Duels.

What’s known for sure: William Byron is going to a backup car after being collected in a crash with four laps to go in Duel 2. He will abandon his second-place spot on the Daytona 500 grid as a result.

What’s not known is the fate of teammate Alex Bowman‘s pole-winning No. 48 Chevrolet.

A engine issue on the car developed and forced Bowman to pit road midway through the race, where his crew worked to diagnose it.

Bowman eventually returned to the track and finished 20th.

Afterwards, crew chief Greg Ives said that his driver had “felt and heard something in the engine, which turned into a vibration in the chassis.”

Already locked into the race, Ives took the opportunity to run through potential problems.

“We talked through engine diagnostics and sent some guys over pit wall who don’t normally go over the wall,” he said. “Our team was able to go through some tire sets to make sure it wasn’t that. There were a lot of things you always think you are going to be prepared for until you actually go through them.

“I feel like we did a good job understanding it and hopefully, we are able to diagnose it and make sure everything is good.”

Bowman was confident that his team will get the matter sorted in time for Sunday.

“There is definitely something going on, but it looks like the engine is good which is the important thing,” he said. “The Hendrick Motorsports engine shop does a great job with our engines and that thing is totally fine. We just have something going on that is shaking the car, so we just have to figure that out.”

Chad Knaus, vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports, said Friday morning that the team believes the engine is fine but further examination was taking place.

Hunger for more

Bubba Wallace came close to a win in Duel 2 with his new 23XI Racing team, but his reaction afterwards brooked no argument for moral victories.

“A lot of mistakes,” Wallace told FS1 about his performance. “A good debut, but nothing to be really happy about for myself. It’s okay for drivers to be hard on themselves. That’s how we motivate ourselves to go out and do better.

“Hats off to my guys – the 23XI team – for building me a great DoorDash Toyota Camry. I tried to do all I could to help (Martin) Truex there, get Toyota a win. I appreciate Kyle (Busch) for cutting me a lot of breaks.

“I know I’ve got a lot to learn here, but all in all, it was a good night, but I’ve got some learning to do.”

Later on Twitter, Wallace posted a GIF of a frustrated child. That earned a reply from his crew chief, Mike Wheeler:

Having won the Daytona 500 in 2016 with Denny Hamlin, Wheeler knows the real battle is coming.

And near-miss aside, there was a lot to like from Wallace and the No. 23 team on Thursday night/Friday morning. He arguably had the strongest car in the Duel 2 field along with William Byron.

But Byron couldn’t get his car back to the garage unscathed. Wallace did. With that, he’s set himself up as a legitimate contender for Sunday.

Make it happen

Austin Cindric‘s hopes of making the Daytona 500 appeared dashed after his pit road speeding penalty on Lap 34 of the first Duel.

Cindric said the penalty made him feel like “the smallest person in the world,” but he knew he had to regroup and find a way to make a difference.

He did just that. Down a lap to the leaders, he helped push Ryan Preece toward Ty Dillon coming to the finish. Preece was able to beat Dillon at the line, enabling Cindric to enter Sunday’s race.

“If I had a radio to (Preece), I would have told him I was buying him modified tires, dinner, whatever he needs,” Cindric said. “I don’t think he really knew the scenario. Even when I talked to him on pit road after the Duel, I don’t think he understood what the scenario was there.

“I was definitely trying to get linked up. But at that point on the final lap, I knew that I was behind him and had a chance to shove. No matter what was happening in the lanes in front of me … I was pushing. I never lifted. That was what my job was. It obviously worked out for the best.”

The reigning Xfinity Series champion now turns his attention to Saturday’s Xfinity season opener and what will be his Cup debut on Sunday.

Cindric quickly noted the competition jump from Xfinity to Cup on Thursday night.

“Early on in the night when I was lined up on the first couple rows there, I was very cognizant of who I was racing – trying to understand what they were doing, learning,” he said. “I learned a lot in those first 30 laps about how guys manage things, in a lot of ways I enjoyed it.

“I really enjoyed it. It’s everybody doing everything right. You have to be perfect. That’s the kind of racing I like. That’s what you want as a competitor, to be racing against the best.

“You can tell immediately. Nothing against the guys that race in the Xfinity Series, but I think there’s definitely a step up and there’s definitely more for me to learn.”

NASCAR Awards to air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano didn’t need much time to answer the question.

Who would the two-time Cup champion want to introduce him at the NASCAR Awards?

Racing icon Mario Andretti, Logano immediately said. 

And there was Andretti on the stage at the Music City Center introducing Logano, the 2022 Cup champion. Watch that and the rest of the night’s festivities at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock. You can order Peacock here.

MORE: See the red carpet scene

MORE: Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

NBC Sports’ Marty Snider and Kim Coon co-hosted the show along with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck champions were honored. Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, whose father died hours after Gibbs won the Xfinity title last month, received a standing ovation and thanked the industry for its support.

The highlight of the night for Logano was having Andretti on stage to introduce him.

“He’s just been a great role model for me, not only as a racer, but as a person for so long,” Logano said afterward. “I had his picture on my wall. I looked at Mario Andretti before I went to sleep every night as a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing that he signed it to me.”

NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration
Cup champion Joey Logano on stage with racing icon Mario Andretti during the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano and Andretti have gotten to know each other through the years. Logano ran a throwback car that honored Andretti at Darlington Raceway in 2015 and 2021.

But none of that compared to being on stage with Andretti.

“That’s still like a pinch-me moment,” Logano said. “It’s Mario Andretti. He’s the man. The fact that he knows my name I think is really, really cool.”

Catch the NASCAR Awards at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”

Brennan Poole joins Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for 2023

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Brennan Poole will join Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity season, the team announced Friday.

Poole will drive the No. 6 car for the full season. Currey returns to the team’s No. 4 car for the season. Currey scored five top-15 finishes last season for the organization.

JD Motorsports is planning to run the No. 0 car next season. No driver or sponsor has been announced for that ride.

“We’re full throttle here and getting ready to go,” Davis said in a statement from the team. “Bayley and Brennan are signed on and looking forward to chasing races and points next year. We’re actively moving along looking for sponsor commitments and for drivers and sponsors for the No. 0 car.”

“We’ve always taken the approach here that we want to go after the series with multiple cars, and that’s how we’re looking toward 2023. The new schedule is very interesting and provides new challenges to our drivers and team members.”

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.

Friday 5: Will Kyle Busch become NASCAR’s Tom Brady, Peyton Manning?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The weight of an unfulfilled season, deciding where he’d race in 2023 and the impact on his Truck Series team are off Kyle Busch.

It’s back to racing for the two-time Cup champion, who seeks to reignite his career at Richard Childress Racing this season.

Busch performed his final duty representing Joe Gibbs Racing at Thursday’s NASCAR Awards (show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock) and it’s now all about helping RCR win its first Cup championship since 1994.

MORE: NASCAR Awards red carpet scene

Busch will be with Richard Childress Racing this weekend at Circuit of the Americas for World Racing League endurance events. Busch said the team has turned an old Cup car into an endurance car for the event. Last year, RCR won an eight-hour endurance race there with Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick and Kaz Grala.

Busch seeks better fortunes at RCR than what he’s had recently at Joe Gibbs Racing.

He has one Cup win in his last 53 starts — 14 drivers have won more races than Busch in that span, dating back to the July 2021 race at Road America.

His 17 top-10 finishes this past season were his fewest since scoring 16 top 10s in 2015. 

He was running at the finish in 29 of 36 points races — the first time he’s been running at the finish in fewer than 30 races since 2015. Two blown engines in the opening round of the playoffs led to failing to advance to the second round for the first time in his career. 

“It’s obviously been a challenging, not just this year, but the last little while,” Busch said Thursday at the Music City Center. “So, it’s kind of maybe a blessing in disguise, honestly, where it might just be time for a fresh start, time for something new, time for something different.”

He looks to future NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning for inspiration.

Brady won six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots before  joining Tampa Bay and winning a Super Bowl in his first season with the Buccaneers.

Manning won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts before joining the Denver Broncos and winning a Super Bowl there in his final season in the NFL.

“I’m kind of looking at it as a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning aspect where they left great teams, great organizations where they won championships and they were able to win a championship somewhere else,” Busch said. “I’d like to think I still have that opportunity to be able to do that at RCR.

“I look at the opportunity with the new Next Gen race car as an easier move to make now with that vs. years past with previous generation cars.”

He says that because with the previous generation of cars, there was a greater separation between teams because NASCAR did not regulate as much of the car. With the the Next Gen car, teams have the same parts. Two-time Cup champion Joey Logano that his team still has much to learn about the car and maximizing setups. 

Even with his struggles at the end of his tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing, Busch says he doesn’t go to RCR with a chip on his shoulder. 

“I don’t think I have anything to prove or I need to have a chip on my shoulder,” Busch said. “I just want to go out there and run well again. … I felt like we had a lot of strong runs this year. There were like six races I can count that we could’ve, would’ve, should’ve won and we didn’t whip is very frustrating. 

“We were so good at giving them away that I need to get back to I’m so good at stealing them and earning them.”

2. Special delivery 

Among the perks with winning a Cup title is getting the Champion’s Journal. Jimmie Johnson started the tradition after his 2010 championship. The existence of the journal remained a secret until 2017 when Johnson posted a picture on social media of him handing the journal to Martin Truex Jr.

The journal passes from champion to champion with the current champion holding on to it for a year and adding an entry for the next champion before handing it to them. Logano will receive the journal from Kyle Larson. 

“I can’t wait to read it again,” Logano said before Thursday’s NASCAR Awards. “I’m telling you, it’s probably one of the coolest things. Jimmie deserves all of the credit for coming up with the idea. 

“I wish it started sooner. It’s so interesting. Some drivers are very detailed what they write to the next champion and some are kind of quick and simple. It’s very interesting to read it. It’s cool. It’s a real secret. It’s kind of like an unwritten rule, you can’t take pictures of it and post it. It’s a thing that only the championship drivers know and have read and seen.

“Every time I get it, I’m so nervous. I’m like don’t spill anything on this thing, don’t lose it. It would suck to be the guy that loses that. That would be bad. I’m putting it right in the safe.”

Logano won his first Cup title in 2018. He then gave the journal to Kyle Busch, the 2019 series champion.

“It’s something you put a lot of thought into, at least I did,” Logano said of what he penned. “I wrote a letter to Kyle. You put a lot of thought into it. It’s something that will be there as long as our sport is around. I hope so at least. It’s a really great tradition.”

3. Fun factor 

The day of last year’s NASCAR Awards, William Byron said he wanted compete in more races outside NASCAR in 2022. 

Byron, who seeks to make Sunday’s prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race, has fulfilled his goal, winning, gaining confidence but also having fun.

“What I got out of it was immediate fun, sort of relief,” Byron said of racing various Super Late Model races this year. “It was not racing the Cup car. It was different. It was not as stressful working with the team and things like that because there’s not as much on the line. There’s still prize money and things, and honestly you’re there to have fun. I enjoyed that.

“As I got going in it, I realized how productive it really was for me to do it, how much I was learning. As I did it more often throughout the season, I learned little nuances that were helping me get back in the Cup car with a better skill set.”

That element of fun stood out to Byron. Cup racing is full of pressure with the multi-million dollar sponsors, expectations to win and all the people at the shop relying on the car’s performance. That’s significant pressure, on top of what any driver puts on themself.

“There’s a lot of guys that you are trying to provide for and do a good job for,” Byron said of Cup racing. “There is a weight to that. You want to perform for those guys that work non-stop at the shop. There’s just a much broader net that you are casting as a driver. Whenever you go to the short track level, it’s you and six to 10 guys working on the car. … There’s natural pressure with what we’re trying to do at the Cup level because it is the No. 1 motorsports in the U.S.”

4. Looking for a ride

Ross Chastain says he’s been “trying for years” to get a ride in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway without success but that hasn’t deterred him.

“I’ve met with the president of IMSA,” said Chastain, who finished second to Joey Logano for the Cup title this season. “I’ve met with team owners. I’ve talked to drivers. I just can’t find my way in yet. I haven’t found the right person yet to either tell me how to do it or give me the opportunity. I could show up with sponsorship and get a ride, but how do I get in as a race car driver? I haven’t found that spot yet.”

Chastain said he’s reached out to some this offseason with no luck. 

He said the prestige of the season-opening IMSA event (Jan. 28-29, 2023) draws him but he also wants to gain more experience racing on a road course — even with his win at Circuit of the Americas this past season. And Chastain is not picky on the type of ride he’d like to have for that race.

“I’m not even looking to be in the top class. I want to find a mid-pack Xfinity team of the Rolex and go run there and experience it and then just to be around those road racers that do it year around. I know I could learn something. … I just want to race.”

5. Indy 500-Coke 600 double

It has been eight years since Kurt Busch competed in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, the last time the feat has been accomplished. 

Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson are among those who have expressed interest in running both races in the same day but don’t appear to be in a position to do so in 2023 because of the limited IndyCar rides available. 

Roger Penske, owner of the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said he could see Jimmie Johnson attempting it this year, and others as soon as next year. 

“It’s about having the car and the manufactures, whether it’s Chevy and or Honda,” Penske said, referring to the IndyCar manufacturers. “All would be interested to see somebody run the double. Maybe Jimmie is going to do it, which would be great. 

“He has the experience. He did very well on the ovals. … It’s my understanding that he’s going to run potentially the 600 as one of his races (with Petty GMS). We’ll see.”