Austin Dillon steals second Bluegreen Vacation Duel win over Bubba Wallace

With a strong push from Kevin Harvick and a crossover move to overtake Bubba Wallace approaching the finish line, Austin Dillon was able to steal the win in the second Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday, February 11. With his first Duel career victory, Dillon will line up in fourth place for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

The lineup for the first duel event was based off of the Daytona 500 pole position qualifying session on Wednesday, February 10, where the even-numbered qualifiers in their respective order competed. With that, William Byron, the outside pole-sitter for the 2021 Daytona 500, started on pole position and was joined on the front row with Bubba Wallace. Joey Gase started at the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments.

When the green flag waved and the race commenced following a delay of more than two and a half hours due to rain, Byron jumped ahead with the advantage while Wallace and Kevin Harvick battled behind. Through the backstretch and in Turn 3, Wallace gained a run on Byron and overtook him to take the lead as he led the first lap. 

The following lap and with the field fanning out to two and three lanes, Byron was able to utilize the inside lane to lead the following lap over Wallace, who moved to the outside lane. 

After leading the second lap, Byron pulled ahead followed by Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott while Wallace was shuffled back on the outside lane and in a three-wide pack. 

By the fifth lap, the top-10 competitors led by Byron were running in a single-file line on the inside. In addition, Noah Gragson, who started at the rear of the field, was in ninth place and leading the way as the highest non-chartered competitor on the field while Kaz Grala was in 14th.

Through the first 10 laps of the race, Byron was still out in front followed by Austin Dillon, Harvick, Elliott and Kurt Busch while Ryan Blaney, Wallace, Chris Buescher, Brad Keselowski and Ross Chastain were in the top 10. Garrett Smithley, meanwhile, was the highest non-chartered competitor on the field in 11th while Grala and Gragson were behind in 12th and 13th.

Two laps later, Harvick gained a run on the outside lane to emerge with the lead as Blaney drafted Harvick to the front. Shortly after, Wallace drafted and challenged Blaney for the runner-up spot on the inside lane. 

By Lap 15, Harvick, racing in his No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang, continued to lead by a narrow margin over Blaney and Wallace while Byron and Keselowski were in the top five. 

After leading the next two laps, Wallace got shuffled out of the lead pack after being stuck in the middle lane. With Wallace falling back, Harvick reassumed the top spot followed by teammates Blaney and Keselowski while Byron continued to fight back on the inside lane as he had Austin Dillon, Elliott and Kurt Busch behind him.

Through the first 20 laps of the race, Byron was back in the lead followed by Austin Dillon, Elliott, Harvick, Kurt Busch, Blaney, Keselowski, Corey LaJoie, Truex and Wallace. Gragson and Grala were in 11th and 12th while Garrett Smithley was back in 20th.

Not long after, the field settled in a long single-file lane on the outside lane as Byron continued to lead. 

When the field reached the halfway mark on Lap 30, Byron remained at the front followed by Austin Dillon, Harvick, Blaney and Keselowski with Truex in sixth. Gragson was in seventh while Grala was back in 15th.

Shortly after, Blaney gained a run on the inside lane followed by teammate Keselowski, Wallace and a number of other competitors as Blaney made a bid for the lead.

By Lap 33, Austin Dillon emerged with the lead by a nose over Byron. The following lap, Harvick, who was behind Dillon earlier, emerged with the lead. By then, Austin Dillon was behind him while Truex formed a line leading a bevy of cars on the outside wall.

Two laps later, trouble on the track ensued when rookie Chase Briscoe got loose entering Turn 1 and spun. Behind, rookie Anthony Alfredo and Kaz Grala also got sideways after both made contact against one another as both came to rest alongside Briscoe. Garrett Smithley and B.J. McLeod were also involved in the incident. Following the incident, McLeod and Alfredo retired while Grala, Briscoe and Smithley remained on the track. In the process, Grala, who sustained damage to his No. 16 HyperIce Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, lost a lap to the leaders.

Under caution, the leaders pitted and Blaney emerged with the lead after only taking fuel during his stop. Harvick exited in second place followed by Byron, Austin Dillon, Truex and Wallace.

With 20 laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the front, Blaney pulled in front of Harvick on the inside lane and retained the lead. In Turn 1 and through the backstretch, Austin Dillon, racing in his No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, gained a run on the outside lane with drafting help from Wallace to challenge Blaney for the lead. His run, however, did not last long as Blaney retained the lead when the field returned to the tri-oval.

The following lap, Byron gained a run on the outside lane through the backstretch and back to the start/finish line to reassume the lead. Soon after, Byron and Austin Dillon battled dead even for the lead with the field fanning out to two lanes and running in a tight pack.

With the race down to the final 15 laps, Byron cleared the field with the lead followed by Austin Dillon, Wallace, Keselowski and Blaney. Behind, Smithley and Gragson were battling one another for a transfer spot to Sunday’s Daytona 500.

With 10 laps remaining, the No. 24 AXALTA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE driven by Byron was still leading the field followed by Truex, Austin Dillon, the Busch brothers and Harvick. By then, Gragson was in 12th and in the transfer spot to the 500 while Smithley was in 15th. Meanwhile, Wallace and Blaney were shuffled out of the lead pack.

Two laps later, Truex surged his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry to the lead on the outside lane and with drafting help from Harvick. As Truex took the lead, Harvick was locked in a battle with Byron for the runner-up spot as the field continued to battle tightly in two lanes at the front.

Another two laps later, Harvick, who received a push from Byron, challenged Truex on the inside lane to take the lead.

Down to the final five laps of the race, Harvick continued to lead while Keselowski challenged Truex for the runner-up spot. Not long after, Wallace shoved Truex to the lead as Kyle Busch also moved up into third place.

The following lap, trouble ensued behind when Smithley, who attempted to shove his way in between Keselowski and Gragson past the tri-oval, made contact with Keselowski and turned him into Gragson. The contact ignited a multi-car wreck that also collected Byron and Ross Chastain. 

The damage was enough for Byron to sacrifice his front row starting spot for the 500 with the team moving to a back-up car. In addition, Gragson was knocked out of the race as his hopes of making Sunday’s Daytona 500 and his Cup debut with Beard Motorsports disappeared. Smithley continued, though he lost two laps to the leaders. In the midst of everything, Grala received the free pass to return on the lead lap as his hopes of making the 500 were rejuvenated.

The late multi-car wreck sent the race into overtime. At the start, Truex pulled in front of Wallace to retain the lead with Kyle Busch tucked in behind both in third place. Truex was able to retain the lead as he started the final lap, though he had Wallace, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch and Harvick closing in for one final charge.

Entering the backstretch, Wallace and Austin Dillon, both racing with momentum on the inside and outside lane, left Truex stuck in the middle with no drafting help as Wallace took the lead with drafting help from Kyle Busch’s No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry.

Through Turn 3 and entering the tri-oval, Wallace moved his No. 23 DoorDash Toyota Camry up in an attempt to block Austin Dillon, who had a run with drafting help from Harvick. Dillon, however, made a crossover move on the inside lane and was able to squeak ahead following light contact with Wallace to win by 0.057 seconds. 

With his victory, Dillon will attempt to win his second Daytona 500 title after winning his first in 2018.

“I was talking to my spotter before the restart and he was like, ‘We’ve got [Harvick] behind us and he’s been pushing well all night.’ He had [Blaney] so I knew the manufacturer thing was going to be tough,” Dillon said. “I made a decent block on the backstretch and just a heck of a push through [Turns] 3 and 4. I knew Bubba was going to try and block, but I just whipped the wheel and it worked out well.”

Wallace, in his first run with 23XI Racing, settled in a strong second-place result as he will line up in sixth place for Sunday’s 500. Despite the strong run, Wallace was anything but pleased with the result.

“Lot of mistakes,” Wallace said. “Good debut, but nothing to be really happy about on myself. It’s okay for drivers to be hard on themselves. That’s how we motivate ourselves, to get out and do better…It was a good night, but I got some learning to do.” 

Harvick crossed the line in third place followed by Kyle Busch and Elliott. Blaney, Corey LaJoie, Ragan, Kurt Busch and Buescher rounded out the top 10 on the track. Truex fell all the way back to 12th place behind Keselowski.

David Ragan, who was guaranteed a spot in the 500 based on his qualifying speed a day earlier, was able to improve his starting spot for the main event after claiming a transfer spot on the track via the duel. With that, Kaz Grala, who finished 14th, secured the final starting spot for the 500. With his accomplishment, Grala will be making his second career start in the Cup Series in Sunday’s Daytona 500 as Kaulig Racing will be making its second consecutive Daytona 500 appearance.

“It’s great,” Grala said. “Obviously, we knew coming into it, this was going to be a really hard year to make the race — excellent competition, great teams, great drivers trying to make this race without charters. So we knew it was a tall order, but I will say now, being able to breathe a sigh of relief that we are in, it makes it that much sweeter knowing that we beat some real incredible teams and drivers to get into this race.”

Garrett Smithley and Gragson, both of whom finished 16th and 18th, failed to qualify for the 500, joining Ty Dillon and Timmy Hill.

There were 14 lead changes for six different leaders. The race featured two cautions for eight laps.

Results.

1. Austin Dillon, two laps led

2. Bubba Wallace, three laps led

3. Kevin Harvick, 11 laps led

4. Kyle Busch

5. Chase Elliott

6. Ryan Blaney, four laps led

7. Corey LaJoie

8. David Ragan

9. Kurt Busch

10. Chris Buescher

11. Brad Keselowski

12. Martin Truex Jr., nine laps led

13. Joey Gase

14. Kaz Grala

15. Chase Briscoe, two laps down

16. Garrett Smithley, two laps down

17. Derrike Cope, four laps down

18. Noah Gragson – OUT, Accident

19. William Byron – OUT, Accident, 34 laps led

20. Ross Chastain – OUT, Accident

21. Anthony Alfredo – OUT, Accident

22. B.J. McLeod – OUT, Accident

With the 2021 Daytona 500 starting grid officially set, the main event will occur on Sunday, February 14, with coverage on FOX at 2:30 p.m. ET.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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Andrew Kim
An avid motorsports enthusiast from California with aspirations of working in any form of communications, PR or digital/social media in motorsports.

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