Aric Almirola held off a charge from Joey Logano, who pulled alongside Almirola on the final lap of the first 150-mile race at Daytona International Speedway. Christopher Bell waffled briefly on which driver he wanted to push.
It gave Almirola the shove he needed for his first victory in a qualifying race at Daytona. He led 52 of the 60 laps.
“Things are going right for Tampa Bay,” Almirola said about his first career Speedweeks victory the same week his hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl.
“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.
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.
Cindric was attempting to qualify for his first Cup race. 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. Dillon is looking for a full-time job this year and through a budding relationship. 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. 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.