Budweiser Duels Race Report: All 3 FRM Cars in the 500

David Gilliland, No. 38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford
Starting Position: 15 (Duel No. 1)
Finishing Position: 12

David Gilliland was the first of the Front Row Motorsports drivers to test the racing conditions of the Gen-6 cars on Daytona International Speedway Thursday, starting 15th in Budweiser Duel 1. Gilliland and crew chief Frank Kerr’s plan was to run a cautious race and avoid trouble to ensure a clean transfer of the Love’s Travel Stops Ford into Sunday’s Daytona 500.

The strategy paid off, but not without some drama. About halfway through the 60-lap race, Gilliland lost touch with the main pack and, by Lap 48, had gone a lap down. But, par for the superspeedway course, drivers started getting aggressive as the laps ticked down and a multi-car wreck brought out the yellow flag with eight laps to go. Heading right into the melee, Gilliland just barely dodged the spinning cars to escape without a scratch.

The caution led to the No. 38 earning the “Lucky Dog” pass to return to the lead lap. After pitting for new tires and fuel, Gilliland took the restart in 19th with four laps to go. He charged his way up six spots in the Love’s Travel Stops Ford to cross the line in 13th. A penalty on Martin Truex Jr. bumped Gilliland up one more spot to finish 12th.

He will now line up 25th for Sunday’s 55th Daytona 500.

Comments from Love’s Travel Stops team driver David Gilliland after the Budweiser Duels:

“Yeah, that was a little more dramatic than we wanted. But Frank Kerr and all the guys working on our Love’s Travel Stops Ford did a great job. I love racing at Daytona — it’s one of my favorite places — and I can’t wait for Sunday. We’ve learned a lot about these cars in the last few days on track and we’ve got a couple more practices to get it dialed in.”

David Ragan, No. 34 Detail Doctor Ford
Starting Position: 15 (Duel No. 2)
Finishing Position: 10

Thanks to the results of Duel 1, David Ragan learned he was securely in the Daytona 500 line-up before he took the green flag of Duel 2. He started 15th, hoping to use the 60 laps to learn more about the racing conditions of the track and his No. 34 Detail Doctor Ford.

Much like in the first duel, the field played it safe for much of the race, stringing out single file and logging laps. Ragan stayed within the top 20, working mostly with a group of three other cars. As the field pitted around the Lap 40 mark, crew chief Jay Guy called his driver to pit road for right-side tires and fuel, and the quick green-flag stop pushed him up to the board to 10th.

With passing difficult, the group maintained its single-file line for most of the remaining laps, allowing Ragan to secure a top-10 finish and a starting position of 22nd in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Comments from Detail Doctor team driver David Ragan after the Budweiser Duels:

“We would’ve liked to have had a shot at the win at the end. But the way the green-flag pit cycles worked out, it stretched the field out a lot and we didn’t really have a chance to get caught back up. But we learned a lot of what we need for Sunday to have a good-handling car, and we got to run through a fuel run and see how our tire wear is. So it was a solid day and I’m happy for our Detail Doctor team and for Front Row Motorsports having three cars in the 500.”

Josh Wise, No. 35 Blockbuster Ford
Starting Position: 16 (Duel No. 2)
Finishing Position: 16

Josh Wise entered Duel 2 knowing he had one car to beat to secure a spot in his first Daytona 500 — the No. 19 of Mike Bliss. Starting in the 16th position, Wise put Bliss behind him early in the event and then got extra assurance when Bliss had to pit under green for a loose window net.

The rest of the race was spent learning how the No. 35 Blockbuster Ford behaved in the draft and running various lines, and most of all, just staying out of trouble to secure his position in Sunday’s main event.

With Wise running in 19th, crew chief Steven Lane called Wise to pit on Lap 38 under green for right-side tires and fuel to finish out the race. He rejoined the field in 17th and gained one additional position to finish 16th. The finish earned Wise a starting position of 32nd in his first Daytona 500.

Comments from Blockbuster team driver Josh Wise after the Budweiser Duels:

“It’s stressful going into it because you know anything can happen here at Daytona, so we just tried to keep ourselves in the position that we knew we needed to be in the whole race. We knew what we were racing against and what we needed to do, so the guys did a good job calling the race from the pit box and we got it done, so it’s just awesome. It’s really cool.”