A late crash in Thursday’s second Daytona 500 qualifying race knocked out one of the front-row starters for the Great American Race and shook up the contest for one of the final starting berths.
Contact between the No. 13 Ford of Garrett Smithley and Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford triggered a multi-car tangle with four laps left in regulation, pushing the second Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona to overtime. The wreck also snared the Open cars of Smithley and Noah Gragson, helping Kaz Grala secure one of the final Daytona 500 berths.
Left in the wake was a mangled No. 24 Chevrolet for second-place qualifier William Byron and a damaged No. 42 of Ross Chastain. Byron placed 19th, seven laps shy from the finish.
Bummer 😡. Man the thing was fast. Our goal was to learn and progress, we did that. Unfortunate to get caught in someone’s mess but that’s part of it. @AxaltaRacing @Hendrick24Team will be ready for Sunday.
— William Byron (@WilliamByron) February 12, 2021
Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports team began to unload a backup car post-race. The team elected to switch to it, announcing the decision on Friday morning.
Although the @AxaltaRacing team will move to a backup car for Sunday’s #DAYTONA500, @WilliamByron is optimistic in his team and crew chief Rudy Fugle as he looks to bring home his first win in “The Great American Race.”https://t.co/h50CNkJ3YM
— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) February 12, 2021
That call will force Byron to drop to the rear for the start of Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM). NASCAR officials said Friday that six other cars would join Byron at the back of the pack, including Brad Keselowski, Chase Briscoe, Kaz Grala, Anthony Alfredo, Cole Custer and Ross Chastain. A final list would be updated before Sunday’s start.
“It’s awful and we hope it doesn’t happen,” said Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports vice president of competition. “That’s always you’re trying to weigh when you qualify on the front row, how aggressive do you get in the 150 — do you race hard; do you not race hard — and it’s a balance, but the only way for these guys to get legit practice is to race. I think the 24 showed a lot of speed. We’re all excited about that, so I think they made the right call.”
Byron teammate Alex Bowman is scheduled to start from the pole position, and his No. 48 Chevy found technical trouble in Duel 1.