Last night after a rain delay, Daytona got to host the Bluegreen Vacations Duels for the 61st time in the history of the Daytona 500. Would’ve been 62nd but the 1968 Duels were rained out. Exhibition races like this are always fun to watch because we get to see some underdogs racing near the front and even winning that we’re not used to seeing in victory lane.
Like last night though, big names still end up taking away the glory most times with Joey Logano and William Byron winning. I feel like whoever wins the duel races, has to be the favorite come time to drop the checkered flag on the big race right? Winning one of the races right before the 500, you’d assume would be a pretty good precursor.
Curious, I decided to go and look back through the history of the Duels of Daytona and see how many times one of the two winners actually ended up winning the Daytona 500. To my absolute shock, in 61 runnings of the duels, only 9 drivers had ever won a duel race and then gone on to win the Daytona 500.
- 1962: Fireball Roberts
- 1977: Cale Yarborough
- 1984: Cale Yarborough
- 1985: Bill Elliott
- 1988: Bobby Allison
- 1995: Sterling Marlin
- 1998: Dale Earnhardt
- 2004: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- 2012: Matt Kenseth
It’s crazy to think that with 122 (2 duel races 61 times) races and 122 winners, only 9 of those went on to win the Daytona 500.
It highlights just how much of a randomizer the Daytona 500 is. Not even the drivers who carry the momentum from winning the duel races and obviously have the best cars receive any kind of special treatment from The Great American Race.
Logano and Byron will probably still be mentioned when it comes to many predictions, including my own. It’s just not that clear cut like if we were to have duel races at tracks like Atlanta, California, or Pheonix.