Unlike qualifying at any other race on the NASCAR schedule, The Daytona 500 is by far the quirkiest, and most difficult to understand. The only thing for sure, or maybe not, is that when the Green Flag drops on The Great American Race Sunday at The Daytona International Speedway, Austin Dillion, and Martin Truex Jr should occupy the front row. Everything else is up for grabs tonight in the Budweiser Duel.
Fans are usually disappointed while watching the two 150 mile qualifying races because they focus on the leaders, and not on the part of the track that counts. The best racing usually occurs at the transfer positions and involves drivers who do not have a guaranteed starting position in the race. What are the transfers spots?
Let’s do the math. there are 43 positions available for the Daytona 500. Unless they need to change cars due to an accident during the Twins, or need to swap an engine, the two pole sitters will occupy the front row. 41 spots remaining.
Positions 1 through 15 in each of the qualifying races will occupy positions 3 thru 32 with the finishing order of the first race lining up on the inside row behind Austin Dillon, and the finishing order of the second race behind Martin Truex. Because the first two positions are guaranteed, the first 16 finishers in each race will get a position.
The four fastest qualifying speeds who don’t already have a guaranteed starting position will get the next four spots. They will get positions 33 thru 36.
Positions 37-42 are provisional positions with the final spot going to the car owner with the most recent eligible past NSCS champion.
Drivers who do not have a guaranteed starting position need to finish in the top 15 positions in the Twin 150’s, so when watching the races tonight, the best door to door action is going to be in the area of position 12 through position 18 and is what is called the transfer spot. That is where you will find the drivers who are driving for a purpose, and where the best racing will be.
The driver to keep an eye on tonight is Kurt Busch. The driver of the new #41 team is the one with the most to lose. The safety net that is provided to make sure past winners, owners and sponsors get into the race on Sunday does not include the new driver at Stewart Haas Racing.
Kurt is a new driver, in a new car, and because they take past NSCS Champions in order of last to win, Kurt falls through all of the options and is vulnerable. If all of the cards were to fall just right, the 2004 Champ could wind up watching the race on television with the rest of us on Sunday.
So when you tune in this evening, instead of watching the leaders who have nothing to race for except a better position in which to begin the race, keep you eyes on the transfer sports where drivers are in a do-or-die situation. For these folks, if they don’t perform, they will load their trucks and have to go home.
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