Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is unlike any other auto racing qualifying procedure. Drivers have two chances to qualify for the season-opening race, as opposed to the usual format of one qualifying session per event
The first chance comes via Daytona 500 Qualifying, which will be held today, Sunday, February 13th.
The other chance is the Gatorade Duel at Daytona, two 150-mile qualifying races held on Thursday, February 17th.
Below is a breakdown of the Daytona 500 qualifying procedure:
Daytona 500 Qualifying Day
- Each team may run two laps with the fast lap setting the qualifying time. The two fastest qualifiers earn starting positions one and two and are the only guaranteed positions, filling the front row for the Daytona 500.
- The Gatorade Duel at Daytona, two 150-mile qualifying races, will determine starting positions for the Daytona 500 beyond the front row. In the event of cancellation, the field will be set according to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rule Book.
- The eligible highest ranked 35 in 2010 car owner points will be assigned to Gatorade Duel races based on their final 2010 car owner points. Cars with odd-numbered owner points positions will compete in the first Gatorade Duel race; even-numbered owner points positions will compete in the second race.
- The only exception is that the fastest qualifier from Daytona 500 Qualifying will start on the pole in the first Gatorade Duel race and the second fastest will start on the pole in the second race, regardless of 2010 car owner point standings.
- Owners who failed to finish in the top 35 of the 2010 car owner points will be assigned to the Gatorade Duel races based on qualifying times. The fastest qualifying owner goes to the first Duel race; the next to the second race and alternating through remaining entries.
- The actual starting grids for the Gatorade Duel races are based on qualifying times.
Daytona 500 Lineup
- The two fastest qualifiers set starting positions one and two.
- Finishing positions in the Gatorade Duel races determine the other starting positions in the Daytona 500.
- The top two non-top 35 teams in each Duel race will earn a spot in the Daytona 500.
- Based on their finish in the first Duel race, the eligible highest-ranked 35 in 2010 car owner points plus the two highest finishing non-top 35 teams will be lined up on the inside row (odd-number starting positions).
- Based on their finish in the second Duel race, the eligible highest-ranked 35 plus the two highest finishing non-top 35 teams will be lined up on the outside row (even-number starting positions).
- The remaining positions will be filled based on qualifying.
- If one or both cars on the front row are not top-35 teams, the number of cars that get in based on time are reduced accordingly.
- The 43rd starting position will be assigned to any car owner who has the most recent eligible past NASCAR Sprint Cup champion who did not make the 500 field by any other method providing the driver competed in the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. If the 43rd position remains unused it will be assigned to the next highest qualifying time.
Bottom line, here’s who gets locked into the Daytona 500 field:
- The top-two qualifiers from Sunday.
- The remaining top-35 guaranteed starters.
- Four drivers from the Gatorade Duel at Daytona (two non-top 35 from each race).
- Remaining drivers not making the field through the above methods can fall back on Sunday’s qualifying times or being a past champion.