How Many Times Have Duels Race Winners at Speedweeks Captured the Daytona 500?

Joey Logano’s victory in the first Busch Light Clash held away from Daytona International Speedway was interesting but uninformative. The quarter-mile track, short duration, and use of heats to set the field bore no resemblance to the season’s 36 NASCAR Cup Series points races.

There’s no history that fans can rely upon to interpret what Logano’s victory means for the season. The Bluegreen Vacations Duel, which some motorsports followers still think of as the Twin 125s, aren’t much better in that respect. Despite a lengthy history, the event doesn’t tell us who’ll win the Daytona 500.

Daytona 500 qualifying looks different than other NASCAR Cup Series races

Dale Earnhardt and Cale Yarborough were two of the few drivers to win one of the duels at Speedweeks and then triumph in the Daytona 500, | Getty Images
Dale Earnhardt and Cale Yarborough were two of the few drivers to win one of the duels at Speedweeks and then triumph in the Daytona 500, | Getty Images

The Daytona 500 became a NASCAR Cup Series fixture once Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959. The tradition includes a pair of shorter races during Speedweeks to help set the field for the big race.

Those races began as a pair of 40-lap races on the 2.5-mile superspeedway, then became the Twin 125s in 1969. The distance changed to 150 miles in 2005, and the event is now known as the Bluegreen Vacations Duels.

The duels are the second phase of qualifying for the Daytona 500. The process begins with single-car qualifying on Wednesday. Unlike other Cup Series weekends, that round of qualifying only establishes the front row for Sunday’s race. The remainder of the qualifying data splits the cars into two groups for the Bluegreen Vacations Duels on Thursday.

Thirty additional drivers lock in their spots in the Daytona 500 via the duels. NASCAR fills the rest of the field with the four fastest non-qualifiers and then sifts the list of the team points leaders from the previous season to get to 40 starters.

How many times has a duels race winner captured the Daytona 500?

Sixty-three years of Daytona 500s have produced 124 duels races (rain forced a cancellation in 1968). Of those winners, just nine went on to cap their weekend by winning the Great American Race. A bettor committed to putting money down on one of the Thursday winners might as well donate at the roulette table instead.

Of those nine winners, only Cale Yarborough accomplished the feat twice. Yarborough, a four-time Daytona 500 champion, pulled off the double in 1977 and ’84.

The nine instances in which a duels winner also captured the Daytona 500 title later that week:

  • 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

Who has won the most Twin 125s and Bluegreen Vacations Duels?

Dale Earnhardt was the king of the Daytona Twin 125s, now known as the Bluegreen Vacations Duels. Though he famously won only a single Daytona 500, Earnhardt took the checkered flag in one of the duels 12 times. Incredibly, that included 10 years in a row beginning in 1990.

Next on the list is six-time winner Cale Yarborough, followed by five-timers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, and Jeff Gordon. Junior Johnson, Bobby Isaac, and Bill Elliott did it four times apiece.

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