It took a nearly three-hour rain delay, a 56th Lap wreck and an epic overtime, but the NASCAR Duels at Daytona on Thursday delivered on excitement.
Aric Almirola took the checkered flag in the first race while Austin Dillon stole a win from Bubba Wallace in Race 2 as Speed Week continues in Florida.
The two 60-lap events lit up Daytona International Speedway as the countdown to the Daytona 500 continues.
Here's how it all played out.
Race 1 Unofficial Results
1. Aric Almirola
2. Christopher Bell
3. Ryan Newman
4. Joey Logano
5. Ryan Preece
6. Ty Dillon
7. Kyle Larson
8. Daniel Suarez
9. Michael McDowell
10. Jamie McMurray
Full Results via NASCAR
Almirola led 52 of the 60 laps in the first race, powered his way through a crowded pack of front-runners on the last lap and perfectly timed his pass of Joey Logano in Turn 4 to capture the checkered flag.
It was as perfect a race as the Florida native could've hoped for ahead of the sport's biggest event of the year and the driver didn't even try to hide his smile as he climbed out of his car.
"Great way to start Speed Week," Almirola told the FS1 broadcast. "This thing is really fast. I can’t wait for Sunday."
Daytona's pole-sitter, Alex Bowman, would probably prefer a few more days, however.
After running 47.056 with a top speed of 191.261 MPH during qualifying, the driver of the No. 48 car made famous by Jimmy Johnson ran into early trouble during the first duel. Despite starting on the top row, Bowman was quickly lapped as his car fell victim to engine trouble.
Things started to go haywire around Lap 25 when Bowman told his crew he was at full throttle but not gaining any ground. That sent him straight to pit row where his team propped open his hood and went to work. Bowman said things got a bit better, but he could feel a vibration on the track and the car needed more work.
If it's not an issue the team can correct without replacing the engine, Bowman will no longer qualify for the pole on Sunday.
With the race two days away, the pressure is now fully on Bowman's crew to get the car running in top shape again or suffer a massive blow early in the year.
Race 2 Unofficial Results
1. Austin Dillon
2. Bubba Wallace
3. Kevin Harvick
4. Kyle Busch
5. Chase Elliott
6. Ryan Blaney
7. Corey LaJoie
8. David Ragan
9. Kurt Busch
10. Chris Buescher
Full Results via NASCAR
Bubba Wallace spent most of the second race hanging around the top ten and then squeezing into the top five before having to drop back again.
The marquee driver of Michael Jordan's new 23XI Racing team is still trying to figure out both his car and the track but still managed to come seconds away from a checkered flag behind winner Austin Dillon. Taking second place didn't seem to be much consolation for Wallace.
"A lot of mistakes," Wallace said about his run on the broadcast. "Good day to be here but nothing to be really happy about for myself. It's OK for drivers to be hard on themselves. It motivates us. … It was a good night, but I’ve got some learning to do."
Wallace had just pulled into the top three when the big one hit Daytona. A massive wreck in the middle of the pack with four laps to go wiped out a solid portion of the field and ended the week early for a few drivers hoping to land a spot in the Dayton 500 starting grid by way of the Duels.
In that sense, it truly could've been worse for Wallace out there. Instead he'll start sixth on Sunday and look to improve in the meantime.
Dillon may have won the race, but Michael Jordan's top driver is taking the loss personally. That typically hasn't worked out well for Jordan's opponents in the past.