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Christopher Bell Passes Teammate Denny Hamlin for Victory in Duel 2

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver made a last-lap pass on Denny Hamlin to complete the Toyota sweep of the Bluegreen Vacation Duels at Daytona.


hero image for Christopher Bell Passes Teammate Denny Hamlin for Victory in Duel 2

There’s no question that Toyota Racing Development (TRD) has to be pleased with the performance of the brand-new Toyota Camry XSE, as the manufacturer swept the Bluegreen Vacations Duels at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday.

While Tyler Reddick sliced through the lead draft to score the victory, moving from sixth to the lead on the final lap, Christopher Bell’s victory was less flashy but still involved a last-lap pass on his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin.

The Norman, Oklahoma-native, who self-admittedly has not had a lot of success on the superspeedways, made a smart block on the race’s final lap, defending against a run from Harrison Burton and Austin Cindric while also getting track position to the outside of Hamlin, a three-time Daytona 500 winner.

As the field jockeyed behind him on the final lap, including a sketchy dive to the inside lane by Austin Cindric at the entrance to turn three, Bell was able to sail away from the field, crossing under the start-finish line with a margin of victory at more than a tenth of a second.

“It feels good. These plate races, I don’t know what to think of them. Me and Adam Stevens, my crew chief, have a running joke that I always say these races are 100% luck, and I know that’s not true. But, it seems like we’ve been struggling to get to the end of it, and I know I’ve been the common denominator in a lot of wrecks, so feels good to do everything right today.”

RESULTS: 2024 Bluegreen Vacations Duel #2 at Daytona

By scoring the victory in Thursday’s Bluegreen Vacation Duel at Daytona, Bell will start in fourth place for Sunday’s running of the Daytona 500, starting alongside Toyota teammate Tyler Reddick on the second row, who won the first Duel race earlier in the evening.

2022 Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric finished in the runner-up position for Team Penske, leaving two of the organization’s three entries to start inside the top-six for Sunday’s 500-mile contest, the Mooresville, North Carolina-native’s third consecutive top-six start in the prestigious event.

Denny Hamlin shuffled back to third place, after leading the pack coming to the white flag in his No. 11 Toyota Camry XSE. Fellow Toyota driver John Hunter Nemechek finished fourth in his duel race, while Harrison Burton rounded out the top five in the No. 21 for Wood Brothers Racing.

Zane Smith, the Rookie of The Year (ROTY) contender for Spire Motorsports, came home in sixth place, while Brad Keselowski, William Byron, Chase Briscoe, and Justin Haley rounded out the top-10. The drivers finishing seventh through 10th all sustained minor damage in a multi-car accident on lap 49.

The crash, which collected at least 10 different vehicles including defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney, was caused when a bump went awry in the tri-oval, sending William Byron down the track to hook the No. 12 in the right rear, sending him into the wall hard.

That ended the evening for the Team Penske driver, along with Josh Berry, Kyle Busch, Riley Herbst, and Noah Gragson. Those five drivers will be related to the rear of the pack to start Sunday’s 500-mile contest, and some may have to move to a backup car.

Another major storyline impacted by that accident was the battle for the final spot in the field for ‘The Great American Race’, after BJ McLeod, who had run stellarly inside the top-10 for much of the evening, found himself with damage to his No. 78 Chevrolet.

However, Live Fast Motorsports got him cleaned up and ready to continue, leaving him to engage in a fierce winner-takes-all battle with Kaz Grala and David Ragan to secure his spot in the biggest event of the season.

Unfortunately for McLeod, the owner-driver came up just short with a 14th-place finish in his Duel race, crossing the start-finish line six-hundredths of a second behind Kaz Grala, who locked into his third Daytona 500 for Front Row Motorsports.

McLeod will join JJ Yeley as the two drivers who will fail to qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series season-opener at Daytona International Speedway.

With both Bluegreen Vacations Duels complete, the starting lineup is officially set for the 2024 Daytona 500. Joey Logano and Michael McDowell will maintain their positions on the front row while qualifying race winners Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell will start in third and fourth place.

-- Image Credit: Rusty Jarrett, LAT, Courtesy of Toyota Racing

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