Dueling It Out

Drivers Look to Can-Am Duels to Lock Into the Daytona 500

Can-Am Duels

Tune in to FoxSports 1 at 7:00 p.m. to see who makes the field for the Daytona 500.

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With the Sprint Unlimited and Daytona 500 Pole Qualifying in the books, the drivers are now focused on the Can-Am Duels and where they’ll start for the 58th Annual Daytona 500. But, this weekend’s events didn’t just get everyone’s heart pumping that NASCAR is back. Fans, drivers, and teams all learned a few things.

First up, the Sprint Unlimited on Saturday night was anything but calm. With only two cars in the field not being involved in a wreck of some sort, it was obvious that drivers were going all-out for the first win of the season. Winner Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and a Virginia native, even had some right-side damage from an incident early in the race.  But that didn’t stop him from managing the draft and scoring the W. The Sprint Unlimited also gave us the first glimpse of NASCAR Overtime with the overtime line coming into full effect Saturday night. We and the competition learned that all four Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas are strong and will be a threat for the rest of Speedweeks.

Daytona 500 Pole Qualifying had a new format this year and it provided one of the best stories of Speedweeks yet. With two rounds of single-car qualifying, each car and driver had their chance to show what the crew guys have been preparing for all off season. Only the top two positions are locked in during qualifying, so drivers were giving it their all in order to be locked into the race. In the second round of qualifying, rookie sensation Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, became the youngest driver ever to win the Daytona 500 pole. With a speed of 196.314 mph, Elliott was able to secure the P1 position in the Great American Race and join a coveted list of father-son drivers who both have won the Daytona 500 pole. Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, will join Elliott on the front row.

“It's such a special day, a great way to start 2016 for our team,” said Elliott.  “Daytona 500 qualifying day is such an opportunity for the teams to really, I feel like, show what they've done in the off-season, the kind of work ethic they have, the amount of hours, the massaging they put in these racecars to find those extra hundredths and thousandths of a second that are so crucial on qualifying day.”

Now, all eyes are on the Can-Am Duels. The Duels set the starting lineup for the Daytona 500, and offer the teams another chance to tweak their cars. Daytona 500 Pole Qualifying determined the lineup for the Duels, with the odd number qualifying positions competing in the first Duel and even number qualifying positions competing in the second Duel. With each race being only 60 laps, it’s a shootout to see who will get prime starting position. The winner of the first Duel will be awarded the third starting spot in The Great American Race, where the winner of the second Duel will start in the fourth spot. Drivers from the first Duel will be lined up in the odd number positions for the Daytona 500 and drivers from the second Duel will be starting in even number positions.

So, what should you look for Thursday night? We have you covered!

  • Hendrick Motorsports vs. Joe Gibbs Racing: The two strongest teams during Speedweeks. One has a Sprint Unlimited win and the other is starting from pole for the Daytona 500. Who will come out on top and be the favorite heading into the Daytona 500?
  • Open Teams Making the 500: With the charter system, 36 teams are already guaranteed a spot in the Daytona 500. The remaining four spots will go to Open teams. Two Open teams, Ryan Blaney in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford and Matt DiBenedetto in the No. 93 BK Racing Toyota, have already locked themselves in the Daytona 500 with their qualifying times. Now, the highest finishing Open team from each Duel will make their way into the biggest race of the year. Who will it be and what move did they pull to get there will be something to watch Thursday night!
  • Another Dose of NASCAR Overtime: Fans, drivers, teams, and NASCAR got the first taste of NASCAR Overtime with the new overtime line located on the backstretch. We only needed one attempt Saturday night for the race to end, but the Duels present the opportunity to test out the unlimited attempts.

You can see all these storylines and more on Thursday night during the Can-Am Duels. Tune in to FoxSports 1 at 7:00 p.m. to see who makes the field for the Daytona 500!

For more on what's going on during Speedweeks, be sure to check out our blog "Over the Wall" at blog.rir.com for interesting storylines, and follow us on Twitter @RIRinsider for the most up-to-date information on everything we're doing in Central Florida. 

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