DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – An eventful first Duel at Daytona International Speedway Thursday evening saw two Hendrick Motorsports teammates forced to move to backup cars for the Daytona 500.
Both William Byron and Jimmie Johnson were involved in incidents that ended their evenings early and set them up to start “The Great American Race” from the rear of the field.
Alex Bowman was the first – and only – Hendrick Motorsports driver to take the checkered flag in the first 60-lap Duel, finishing 14th.
Starting on the pole, he fell back to the rear of the field on purpose in order to protect the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and ensure he’ll remain the pole-sitter for Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Byron and Johnson were scored 18th and 19th, respectively.
Johnson was involved in a multiple-car incident on Lap 8 after experiencing a tire issue.
“The car started to shake a little bit entering the trioval and that’s why I pulled down,” Johnson said. “As I exited the trioval it finally went flat and hooked me around and into Aric (Almirola), unfortunately.”
“Tough way to start Speedweeks,” he continued. “I feel terrible for my race team. I’m thankful for all of their hard work and we’ll get that backup out.”
Johnson will start the Daytona 500 from the rear of the field in a backup No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Of note: three of Johnson’s last four wins have come when he started at the rear of the field.
Byron’s incident came on Lap 39 after a competitor behind him began to form an inside lane and pulled the air off of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
“That was kind of the worst possible spot to get on my quarter panel and I just lost it,” Byron explained. “I got sucked around – the air moved me around. But other than that it was going pretty well before then. I hate it that we tore up the car, but we’ll go to work and get ready for the 500.”
Like Johnson, Byron will start the Daytona 500 from the rear of the field in a backup car.
The Daytona 500 has been won in a backup car four times in history – most recently by Matt Kenseth in 2009.
Below is a closer look at how the three Hendrick Motorsports teammates in the first Duel fared.
WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Byron began Thursday night’s first Duel in third, settling into seventh before the first caution of the evening.
- Battling on the verge of the top 10, Byron found ninth on Lap 35.
- Four laps later, the competitor behind him attempted to form an inside line, pulling the air off the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and sending it spinning around toward the wall.
- The damage ended Byron’s evening and he was scored 18th. The No. 24 team will utilize a backup car for the Daytona 500, meaning Byron will start at the rear of the field.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S FOR PROS CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- On the outside pole at the drop of the green flag, Johnson settled into sixth place by Lap 5.
- On Lap 8, however, the No. 48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 experienced an issue that sent him toward competitors and sparked a multiple-car incident.
- The incident ended Johnson’s night and prompted the No. 48 team to pull out a backup car, meaning the driver will start the Daytona 500 from the rear. He was scored 19th.
ALEX BOWMAN, NO. 88 NATIONWIDE CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Starting the first Duel on the pole, Bowman purposely got out of line and dropped to the back of the field when the green flag waved.
- Looking to protect the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and make sure he’ll hold on to the Daytona 500 pole position, Bowman continued racing in the back for the majority of the race.
- Bowman was the only of the Hendrick Motorsports teammates to take the checkered flag, finishing 14th.