Qualifying, Check. Duels, Check. Daytona 500 – Bring it On!

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 18: Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Can-Am Duels at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 18: Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Can-Am Duels at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2016 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)

As it says above, lets bring on the Daytona 500 ladies and gentleman! The starting grid for Sundays 58th annual Daytona 500 was finalized in last night two Can-Am Duel races that saw their fair share of twists and turns. Few starting positions were changed marginally after the two races were complete; others saw teams rolling out their back up machines.

Before I go any further, I have no gripe about the duels and the chance you have to tear some stuff up. Honestly, the only issue I have is time trials are run in the afternoon to set the two duel races that are run at night, which ultimately set the field for a race that beings in the afternoon. I get it, its all about having the most TV viewers on a Thursday. I can’t tell you how many I missed growing up or had to watch again because I had my mother record it on VHS going through middle and high school.

For the most part the racing was pretty tame, of course with the exception of a few wrecks that sent a few teams running to pull the back up car down. NASCAR’s most popular driver, however, was not one of them. Having one of the more dominate cars all Speed Weeks, Dale Earnhardt, Jr lead all but the entire race Thursday night, coincidently winning on the fifteenth anniversary of the tragic lose of his father at the very same track.

“I knew how important it was to keep it [the lead],” Jr. said after the race. “I had to do everything I could, get pretty aggressive at blocking and getting in front of them and trying to not allow them to get up on the quarter panel. They [Logano & Harvick] had a great car. I know that’s evident. But this car is something special.” Not only did the win earn him a trip to the honorable Gatorade victory lane, but secured his third place starting position for The Great American Race!

The second race of the night was probably what every will be talking about in the days leading up to the 500 as it was filled with the most drama. And lets be honest with ourselves folks, these guys and gals are not going 110% in these duel races, so lets back down a bit on the negativity about it being boring or a snore fest! Floating around social media I saw quite a few people talking how boring they were. These drivers are merely trying to secure there starting spots, of course they will take it easy.

Your defending series champ picked up right where he left, hoisting trophies in victory lane, as he was your winner out of race two. Keeping his #18 M&M’s Toyota up towards the front, avoiding all of the mess that occurred on the final lap that collected Busch’s teammate who had earned his spot on the front row for Sunday. Having to go to a back up car will force Kenseth to the rear, and that outside line up one spot.

“I didn’t win this race to qualify myself for the fourth starting position, but with our teammate having trouble there at the end of the race, they’ll have to go to a backup car, it looks. We’ll get a chance to start on the front row. That’s pretty cool,” Busch told the press after the race. “Definitely a unique opportunity for us and our team. Joe Gibbs Racing has come down with more speed this time around. In the Can-Am Duels tonight we also showed we had good speed. Denny had a fast car. Myself, Matt and Carl, we ran up in the top three much of the race. Then pit stops kind of changed the order around a little bit, there at the end again with guys going for positions and trying to race a little bit and get themselves a better starting spot, it got a little bit hectic, I’d say.”

Michael McDowell, Ryan Blaney, Matt DiBenedetto, and teammate Robert Richardson, Jr were the four drivers to lock in the final four positions for Sundays race. Coverage for the 58th Daytona 500 is set to get under way at 1:30 on Fox. The odd on favorite to win of course is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. You cannot doubt anyone from the JGR camp and I think you cannot rule out rookies Chase Elliot or Ryan Blaney.

The Weekly Racer’s Pick to Win the 500: Ryan Blaney

Leave your pick in the comment section bellow!

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