The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series gets underway with the Daytona 500 on Sunday, and the Can-Am Duels will serve as the qualifying legs for the competition opener on Thursday.
Alex Bowman shocked the masses when he got his 2018 campaign off to a bright start by securing pole for the Daytona 500, but the Duels will play a large hand in deciding how the rest of the field lines up.
The Great American Race marks the beginning of the NASCAR calendar and was won by Kurt Busch last year, although the defending champion finished half a second off Bowman’s pace in Sunday’s qualifying to end the session in 17th.
The field will be split in two on Thursday, with fastest qualifier Bowman set to lead out the first Duel, while second-fastest Denny Hamlin will be at the head of the row for the second.
Read on for a preview and live-stream information for Thursday’s NASCAR Duels at Daytona International Speedway as Florida prepares for one of the most celebrated weekends in the motorsport calendar.
Date: Thursday, February 15
First Duel Time: 7 p.m. ET/12 a.m. GMT (Friday, Feb., 16)
Second Duel Time: 9 p.m. ET/2 a.m. GMT (Friday, Feb., 16)
Live Stream: Fox Sports (U.S.), fuboTV (U.S.)
TV Info: FS1 (U.S.), Freesports (UK)
Preview and Prediction
Hendrick Motorsports has built a habit of succeeding in the Can-Am Duels over recent years and boast at least one out of a possible two winners in the Daytona event for the last three years running.
Bowman may not have had a ride for the 2017 campaign but announced his return to the oval in a big way by clinching pole on Sunday, via Fox NASCAR:
But there will be challengers to his perch at Daytona, and second-fastest qualifier Hamlin will be one in particular worth keeping an eye on considering he won the Daytona 500 only two years ago.
Hamlin won the top prize despite failing to feature among the top drivers in qualifying and in the Duels—he placed fifth in Duel 1—but he recently alluded to a serious challenge in 2018:
Joe Gibbs Racing has also figured heavily in the recent winners list of the Duels, having twice topped one of the two races featured.
Kyle Busch has also tasted victory twice at the Can-Am Duels to put himself in strong contention for the Daytona—although he’s yet to win that race. No. 18 got his 2018 off to a positive start in the Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway in Bakersfield, California:
Last year saw Chase Elliott win his Duel after finishing fastest in qualifying, a feat Bowman will be hoping to repeat in Thursday’s showdown, while Hamlin won Duel 2 following a sixth-place run in qualification.
Bowman may not have the same experience and nous when it comes to leading from the front under these circumstances, but a strong end his 2016 season and an even stronger start to this year spells good omens for the youngster.