Joey Logano wins first Daytona 500 qualifying race
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Defending Cup Series champion Joey Logano won a drag race to the finish line with Christopher Bell to win Thursday’s first Daytona 500 qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway.
Logano led a four-car Ford draft over the closing miles, with Bell, in a Toyota, riding along in the fifth position.
The pack broke up on the final lap in search of the race win. Bell charged toward the front to the outside and challenged Logano in the final turn and through the trioval. Logano won by .018 of a second.
“We knew most likely there wouldn’t be a caution, so we had to do a good job on pit road,” Logano told Fox Sports. “Then there I was as the leader and a sitting duck. It’s not where you want to be. The 20 (Bell) made a run on the outside, but the 12 (Ryan Blaney, Logano’s Team Penske teammate) was there to push me.”
Bell was second, Blaney third, Chris Buescher fourth and Michael McDowell fifth.
Bell said he was “ultimately thrilled with second, to get nine points. Speedway racing has been a really big struggle for us, and it’s been a focus to try and execute a little bit better.”
Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson did not race in the front group, finishing 14th. He qualified for the 500 on speed Wednesday night and was happy to protect his car in Thursday’s qualifier. Similarly, pole winner Alex Bowman, locked into the first starting position Sunday, did not race at the front and finished 17th.
Zane Smith, the 2022 Craftsman Truck Series champion, finished eighth and qualified for the 500.
Pit road speeding penalties dampened the chances of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ty Gibbs and Chandler Smith. Smith, who finished 18th, failed to make the 500 field.