Almirola wins first qualifying race for Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Aric Almirola won the very first Daytona 500 certifying race Thursday night to put a Ford from flagship Stewart-Haas Racing in the 2nd row of NASCAR’s season-opening magnificent.

Almirola held back a charge from Joey Logano, who pulled together with Almirola on the last lap of the very first 150-mile race at Daytona International Speedway. Christopher Bell waffled briefly on which motorist he wished to press and very first appeared to select Logano prior to dipping down behind Almirola.

It provided Almirola the push he required for his very first triumph in a certifying race at Daytona. He led 52 of the 60 laps.

“Things are going right for Tampa Bay,” Almirola stated about his very first profession Speedweeks triumph the exact same week his home town Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl.

“This thing was a racer. Our race automobile is so quickly,” he added. “We’ve got an incredible race car and I can’t wait for the Daytona 500.”

Hendrick Motorsports with Alex Bowman and William Byron put a pair of Chevrolets on the front row Wednesday night for Sunday’s season-opening race. Almirola will be on the second row with the winner of the second Duel, which was in a hold because of rain.

Austin Cindric earned the one “open” spot in the 500 that was up for grabs in the first qualifying race. Eight drivers came to Daytona trying to claim four available spots in the 40-car field. David Ragan and Ryan Preece claimed the first two in Thursday’s time trials, leaving one spot in each of the Duels.

Cindric was attempting to qualify for his first Cup race, but the Xfinity Series champion was flagged for speeding on his final pit stop. It put him a lap down and needing Preece to be the highest-finishing open driver to get the 500 spot.

Ty Dillon looked like he was headed to the Daytona 500, trying to get Gaunt Brothers Racing into the 500 after the team missed the race last year with Daniel Suarez. Dillon is looking for a full-time job this year and through a budding relationship with Toyota had a chance at racing into the 500 for Gaunt.

Dillon was in a bottom lane that came upon two-time defending 500 winner Denny Hamlin as he was trying to coast on gasoline fumes to the finish. That lane had to slow and swerve around Hamlin, allowing Preece with a push from Ryan Newman to pass Dillon.

“Some days it’s your day, I guess,” said Cindric, who found Dillon on pit road and shook his hand after the finish.

“I feel like I did all the hard things correctly tonight, it’s the easy one that I got wrong,” Cindric stated. “I can’t think I sped on pit roadway. I get bonehead of the night.”

Dillon, who wound up sixth in the 22-car field, is scheduled to drive the Xfinity Series opener Saturday for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“It hurts for sure,” Dillon stated. “I think in myself that I can get it carried out in these races and to complete 6th and not get any benefit for it is hard.”

Timmy Hill, who did race his method into the 500 a year back, signed up with Dillon as the 2 motorists who didn’t make it out of the Battle.

Two-time safeguarding Daytona 500 winner Hamlin, attempting to end up being the very first motorist to win 3 directly, stated his Toyota is great for Sunday.

“We sufficed too close on fuel,” Hamlin said.

Bowman, meanwhile, feared he was on the verge of an engine failure and drove the 500’s pole-sitting Chevrolet to pit road 29 laps from the finish.

“I do not wish to keep running it,” stated Bowman, who rather provided the No. 48 team the possibility to conserve his beginning position. If Hendrick Motorsports needs to alter the engine, Bowman will surrender the leading beginning area in the Daytona 500 and be up to the back of the field.

Team chief Greg Ives can make a pre-emptive engine modification prior to Sunday or bet the one in the automobile now can go the range. Winning the pole for NASCAR’s variation of the Super Bowl is prominent, however real beginning position matters really little bit in a 500-mile race at Daytona.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.