After over a decade with Team Penske, Brad Keselowski became the new driver and co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing -- a team he looked to revitalize as RFK Racing. So far, so good, as both of Thursday night's checkered flags belong to Keselowski and his new team.
RFK Racing cars swept the Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying races, as Brad Keselowski made a late-race pass on Ryan Blaney to win Duel 1 while Chris Buescher won Duel 2 after contact on the last lap with Joey Logano. After making his move on Blaney with a handful of laps to go, Keselowski's win was secure when Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe began racing Blaney for second, allowing Keselowski to make it back to the checkered flag unchallenged.
Buescher's win was much more dramatic: On the final lap, Buescher dove to the inside of Joey Logano for the lead coming off Turn 2, only for Logano to try and block Buescher's move. Buescher was already at Logano's right rear quarter panel, leading to Logano spinning out and hitting the outside wall.
Buescher was ahead of Michael McDowell as the field was frozen at the moment of caution, allowing Buescher to take his first win in the Duels.
Bluegreen Vacations Duel Race 1 unofficial results
1. #6 - Brad Keselowski
2. #2 - Austin Cindric (R)
3. #12 - Ryan Blaney
4. #14 - Chase Briscoe
5. #9 - Chase Elliott
Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 unofficial results
1. #17 - Chris Buescher
2. #34 - Michael McDowell
3. #21 - Harrison Burton (R)
4. #18 - Kyle Busch
5. #20 - Christopher Bell
After Noah Gragson and Jacques Villeneuve earned starting spots in the Daytona 500 based on their time trial qualifying speeds on Wednesday, two other drivers were able to claim the final two available spots in the field by racing in through the Duel.
After losing the draft and incurring a pit road speeding penalty, Kaz Grala's Daytona 500 effort looked doomed as he ran two laps down. But in the final laps, Grala was able to latch onto the draft of lead lap cars, allowing him to pass J.J. Yeley as Yeley was put a second lap down by the leaders on the final lap. That allowed Grala to make the Daytona 500, putting car owner Floyd Mayweather and The Money Team Racing in the field for the first time ever.
"I made a mistake, I sped on pit road, and I thought we were out of it -- But I wasn't gonna give up, no matter what," Grala told Fox Sports. "We got into a little line there with Kurt Busch pushing us, and we were running fast lap times and I was hoping the timing was gonna work out. It wasn't by much, but it did."
The race to make the Daytona 500 in Duel 2 was much less dramatic, as Timmy Hill falling off the pace early allowed Greg Biffle to easily put NY Racing and car owner Jonathan Cohen in the Daytona 500. For Biffle -- a full-time Cup driver from 2003 to 2016 with 19 career wins -- Sunday will now mark his first Cup Series start since the end of his full-time racing career.
"It was a tough go," Biffle told Fox Sports. "The car drove so good, and this was a last minute deal. These team guys thrown together, we had trouble getting fuel in the car, I ran out of gas with two laps to go, 25 pounds of fuel pressure. Everything happened tonight -- but we finished 14th."
While the Duels ran mostly clean and green with drivers conserving their cars for Sunday's Daytona 500, the biggest loser of the night ended up being Logano. Thanks to his last-lap crash racing for the win, Logano will have to go to a backup car. Harrison Burton, who ended up third in the second Duel, also sustained damage after hitting Logano's car.
With the Bluegreen Vacations Duel now complete, the 40-car field for the 64th annual Daytona 500 has now been set. Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson starts from the pole, where he will be flanked to his outside by Alex Bowman. Michael McDowell will start sixth as he looks to become the second driver in history to earn his first two Cup wins back-to-back in the Daytona 500.