Reddick books Daytona 500 spot with Duel win

Tyler Reddick went fifth to first in the final lap of the Bluegreen Vacations Duel race at Daytona to earn the victory and put his Toyota into the Daytona 500.

At the white flag, Reddick was fifth and running in the outside lane. But off Turn 2, the picture changed as Chase Elliott and Carson Hocevar dropped to the bottom, which gave way to Reddick pushing Kyle Larson clear of the field. Quickly after doing so, Reddick moved inside Larson to take the lead and drove to victory.

“Great way to start the weekend,” Reddick said. “This thing is a beast.”

The victory was Reddick’s first in a Daytona qualifying race. It will put Reddick third on the starting grid for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Reddick held off Elliott, Alex Bowman, Hocevar and Erik Jones at the finish. Daniel Suarez finished sixth, Joey Logano finished seventh, Ty Gibbs eighth, Larson ninth, and Chris Buescher 10th.

The final lap was the only lap Reddick led in the 60-lap event. Larson led a race-high 14 laps. There were 15 lead changes among nine drivers.

Jimmie Johnson raced his way into the Daytona 500, but not without adversity. It was a battle between Johnson and J.J. Yeley for the transfer spot.

Johnson outran Yeley for much of the race, putting his Legacy Motor Club Toyota inside the top five before coming to pit road. It was after the field made their only pit stop that Johnson and Yeley were put within striking distance of each other.

With 11 laps to go, Johnson was running 16th and Yeley in 19th when the seven-time series champion was collected in an accordion effect crash that started when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got into Daniel Hemric. The contact got Hemric sideways and collected Austin Dillon and Johnson.

After pitting for four tires, Johnson was listed 18th while Yeley was 14th. Yeley did his best over the final six laps to keep Johnson behind him, and it came down to an opening off Turn 4 on the final lap that allowed Johnson to dash to the middle lane. Johnson crossed the finish line 12th to advance into the Daytona 500, while Yeley ended up 16th.

“I have such a greater appreciation for everyone that’s tried to race their way in,” Johnson said. “Although there’s only six more cars, I know at one time there were many more. Stressful. Very thankful we got this Carvana Toyota in the race. I knew the first half of the race was going too easy. I knew there would be a challenge thrown at us. We got it just in time.

“Hats off to J.J. Yeley. Put up a fight. Heck of a car. We were in the right place when the checkered fell.”

Sunday afternoon will be Johnson’s 21st start in the Daytona 500. He’s a two-time winner of the event.