One of the most confusing parts of Speedweeks is always the Duels and just when some fans were starting to understand the format, NASCAR decided to completely change it. I personally love how NASCAR is bringing back the traditional qualifying procedure but it is somewhat complicated for the Daytona 500. If you are one of those people that are baffled by the way it all works; then you’ve come to the right place. I’m about to breakdown exactly how the Duels are setup, which drivers are safe and who should be nervous come Thursday. If you still have any questions about it after reading this article, feel free to post your questions below and I’ll clarify it for you the best I can.
Daytona 500 Pole Day
In qualifying Sunday, the six fastest drivers locked themselves into the Daytona 500 but 3rd through 6th did not lock up exactly where they will start. Providing that Danica Patrick and Jeff Gordon don’t have to go to back-up cars; they will start 1st and 2nd in the Daytona 500 while 3rd through 43rd are yet to be determined. Along with Patrick and Gordon, we now know that Trevor Bayne, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne will race next Sunday; we just don’t know where they will start. Other than what I just said, the only other thing pole day decided is what duel each driver will be in and where they will start in it. For those of you that don’t know, odd numbered qualifiers will race in the first duel while the even numbered qualifiers will race in the second duel on Thursday.
The top six in owner’s points last year are also guaranteed a starting position in the “Great American Race” no matter where they finish in the duels. Positions 37th through 42nd are reserved for them should they not qualify for the race any other way. Those drivers are defending NSCS champion Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.. The #17 was 7th in points in 2012 but gets the provisional because the 4th place finisher of Kasey Kahne has already locked himself into the race. If any of them race their way in Thursday, then the provisional would go to the next highest car in the 2012 standings that is not locked in. 43rd is reserved for the most recent past champion who has not locked himself into the race any other way. Those eligible for that have not yet locked themselves into the 500 in order of most recent champion are Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte and his older brother, Terry Labonte.
The Remaining Positions
The rest of the field must race their way into the Daytona 500 via their respective Budweiser Duel without anything else to fall back on. To put it plainly, 13 people are locked into the race already and finishing inside the top 15 guarantees a driver one of those coveted 43 Daytona 500 starting spots. It is sure to be a wild day of racing with many different strategies playing out throughout the events. There will be some that need to stay out of trouble and others that will be going for broke. 23 cars will race in the first duel and 22 in the second. Some big names that don’t have much, if anything to fall back on and must stay out of trouble are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and the teammates over at RPM and EGR. The races will be very intense with so much more on the line than in recent years. The Duels are set to go green just past 2pm est. time live on SPEED. Enjoy the rest of Speedweeks and be sure to post any questions or comments you may have below!