DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The field is set for Sunday’s Daytona 500 after Thursday night’s Duel qualifying races.
Stewart Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola led a race-high 52-laps in winning the opening duel. Almirola took the lead with 23-laps to go following a round of pit stops and cruised to victory relatively unchallenged in a race that featured a lot of single-file racing.
Almirola was worried that being out front was not going to work in his favor.
“Most oftentimes when you’re the leader, you are the sitting duck,” said Almirola. “It’s hard to lead that many laps and win the race. Usually when you lead that many laps, everybody behind you figuring out how to mount a charge, and you end up losing the race in the last lap.”
Almirola has been in that position before, getting spun out by Austin Dillion coming to the checkered flag in the 2018 Daytona 500. This night however the driver decided to be the aggressor.
“I was more committed to making sure that I made the first move,” said Almirola. “I was glad that we were able to defend that run and make sure that we got our Smithfield Ford Mustang in Victory Lane, which is where it deserved to be after putting on that kind of dominant performance.”
Austin Dillion edged Darrel “Bubba” Wallace to win the second duel race, which was delayed by rain. Dillon and Wallace split leader Martin Truex Jr. on the backstretch on the final lap. Wallace getting pushed in the draft by Kyle Busch and Dillion getting help from Kevin Harvick on the high side.
“I knew the 19 had got shuffled. When the 4 was pushing me at this point, I’m pretty sideways through three and four,” said Dillon. “I see Bubba make his move up the track. I just kind of flipped the wheel there. That worked out great. That was fun.”
The finishing positions of both duels determined positions 3 through 40 in Sunday’s ‘Great American Race’. The front row of Alex Bowman and William Byron was set I time trials Tuesday night.
Kevin Harvick and William Byron On NASCAR Cup Series Front Row At Vegas
LAS VEGAS, NV (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick will start first and Hendrick Motorsports will start along side in second for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The starting lineup was set by NASCAR’s ‘performance matrix’.
Kyle Larson has another Hendrick Chevy up front as he’ll start in the third position with the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Martin Truex Jr in fourth.
A pair of Daytona 500 winners will make up the third row with Michael McDowell and Denny Hamlin fifth and sixth respectively.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch will start seventh with defending Cup Series Champion Chase Elliott alongside in the eighth starting spot.
Busch’s CGR teammate Ross Chastain will start 21st in the No. 42 Clover Chevrolet and Latrobe PA favorite-son Garrett Smithley will start 31st.
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— Pittsburgh Racing Now (@PghRacingNow) March 7, 2021
AJ Allmendinger Beats Daniel Hemric To Win NASCAR Xfinity Alsco Uniforms 300
LAS VEGAS, NV (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – AJ Allmendinger held off Joe Gibbs Racing’s Daniel Hemric to win Saturday’s Alsco Uniforms 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series Race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Hemric was the leader on the final restart with 13-laps remaining. Hemric chose the outside with Allmendinger on the inside. Brandon Jones lined up in third behind his JGR teammate. JR Motorsports Noah Gragson was on the inside on row two.
Allmendinger cleared Hemric coming off of turn two and led the field into turn three and four. Allmendinger ran low in turn one on the next lap coming off on the high side as he pulled out to a .37-second lead and slowly pulled away from the field.
“The victory is very important but I take more pride with how we’ve run as an organization,” said Allmendinger of his Kauling Racing team. “I’d rather run like this and get win than kind of run mediocre and maybe steal one somehow, that does us no good in the long run.”
The victory was the sixth career Xfinity Series victory for Allmendinger and locks him into the NASCAR Playoffs later in the year. Allmendinger led three times for 44-laps including the final 12-circuits to win the race. Allmendinger traded in a partial schedule to run full-time for Kaulig Racing and was fired up after the race to pick up with win.
“When I launched I actually got too far out,” lamented Hemric, who chose the top lane on the final restart. “The bottom lane got linked up and had so much momentum when I turned down to side-draft I was on the splitter.”
Brandon Jones finished third followed by Austin Cindric in fourth and Noah Gragson in fifth.
John Hunter Nemechek Wins NASCAR Truck Series Bucked Up 400 At Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, NV (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – John Hunter Nemechek held off a hard-charging Kyle Busch to win Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Bucked Up 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The victory was the first truck series win in four seasons for Nemechek, who returned to the series to compete full-time for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“It’s great to be back in victory lane,” said Nemechek. “Everyone at KBM, they gave us one heck of truck tonight. Kyle’s truck was really fast as well. Luckily we were able to execute on that restart at the end and put ourselves in position to be leading and win this thing.”
“It’s perfect, it’s all you can ask for, it’s everything,” said Busch of his team after the race. “It’s cool to see the four-truck in Victory Lane and see John Hunter have a shot and get back in Victory Lane.”
Austin Hill finished third followed by Stewart Friesen in fourth and Matt Crafton in fifth.
Zane Smith, Grant Enfinger, Parker Kligerman, Christian Eckes and Ben Rhodes – a two-time winner already this season – rounded out the top 10.
The series next race is the Fr8Auctions 200 on March 20 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.