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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Aric Almirola Wins First Duel, Austin Cindric Makes Daytona 500

Aric Almirola used a shove from Christopher Bell to snag the victory in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel No. 1 at Daytona International Speedway.

Almirola will start the 2021 Daytona 500 in third, seeking his first Daytona 500 victory and his second NASCAR Cup Series win at Daytona.

“All these guys on this team built me an incredible Ford,” Almirola told FOX Sports 1 after climbing out of his No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. “What a way to kick off our 10th season together with Smithfield. We’ve been celebrating that all offseason, my 10th year in the Cup Series, working with Ford, it’s a great way to start Speedweeks.”

Almirola led a race-high 52 laps en route to the win ahead of Bell by 0.041 seconds.

Almirola will start the Daytona 500 in third.

Ryan Newman, Joey Logano and Ryan Preece rounded out the top five.

Preece finished as the highest open driver. Because he also made the Daytona 500 via single-car qualifying, Austin Cindric locked into the Daytona 500 via his speed.

“I get the bonehead of the race award for speeding in the last section of pit road,” Cindric told FOX Sports 1 in his post-race interview. “I nailed everything else all night I didn’t know how to do. I’m obviously very happy to get the No. 33 Ford into the big show. A lot left for me to learn, but racing on the biggest stage against the best drivers, it’s an amazing opportunity.”

The reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, Cindric will make his Cup Series debut as he begins his part-time Cup slate this year before moving up full time in 2022.

Ty Dillon and Timmy Hill failed to qualify for the Cup season opener, despite the former finishing one position lower than Preece in sixth. Cindric finished one lap down in 16th, and Hill finished one lap down in 19th after losing the lead draft earlier in the event.

Daytona 500 pole-sitter Alex Bowman finished four laps down in 20th. He briefly brought his No. 48 Chevrolet onto pit road due to a possible engine issue. Hendrick Motorsports examined the car, and he returned to the field, though he affirmed something felt awry.

Duel 1 Results