NASCAR: Which two drivers will miss the 2023 Daytona 500?

Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Six drivers are set to compete for the final four spots in the field for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500. Who won’t make it?

There are 42 cars on the entry list for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, and 36 are locked into the 40-car field as a result of the fact that they are chartered entries.

The six non-chartered cars are set to battle for four spots to fill the field for the 200-lap race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona Beach, Florida oval.

The fastest two drivers are set to lock in via their speed in the single-car qualifying session (Wednesday, February 15 at 8:15 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1), and another two are set to lock in by being the highest finisher — of the non-chartered entries — in their respective Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying race (Thursday, February 16 at 7:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1).

Should somebody technically lock in twice, the next fastest driver — again, of the non-chartered entries — from the single-car qualifying session would get in, not necessarily the next highest finisher in that driver’s Duel race.

The six non-chartered NASCAR Cup Series cars/drivers on the Daytona 500 entry list are as follows.

  • No. 13 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet – Chandler Smith
  • No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford – Zane Smith
  • No. 50 The Money Team Racing Chevrolet – Conor Daly
  • No. 62 Beard Motorsports Chevrolet – Austin Hill
  • No. 67 23XI Racing Toyota – Travis Pastrana
  • No. 84 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet – Jimmie Johnson

So who will ultimately get in, and who won’t?

Picks to get into the race: Jimmie Johnson, Travis Pastrana, Chandler Smith, Zane Smith

Jimmie Johnson has more than twice as many NASCAR Cup Series championships as the rest of the drivers on this list have career NASCAR Cup Series starts. I simply don’t see a scenario in which the two-time Daytona 500 winner gets beaten by at least four of the other five drivers on this list.

Travis Pastrana and Chandler Smith are the two drivers on this list with absolutely no Cup Series experience, but both are set to compete for young teams that have been strong at Daytona International Speedway and continue to get stronger as a whole. 23XI Racing entered the Cup Series in 2021, and Kaulig Racing began competing full-time in 2022.

As for Zane Smith, his Front Row Motorsports organization is a team that has this race circled on their calendar every year not just because it’s the Great American Race but because of the fact that it is one of the few races which they have just as good a chance as anybody else to win, as Michael McDowell proved in 2021 by finding victory lane.

They are always strong at Daytona International Speedway, and that should bode well for the 2022 Truck Series champion — and the 2022 Daytona Truck Series winner.

Picks to miss the race: Conor Daly, Austin Hill

Believe it or not, IndyCar driver Conor Daly’s NASCAR Cup Series experience is tied for second on this list behind Jimmie Johnson. But that experience is limited to a road course race, and his The Money Team Racing team only qualified for last year’s Daytona 500 thanks to an epic last-lap pass by Kaz Grala in his Duel race.

Grala, who had competed in the Daytona 500, also had the luxury of needing to beat two MBM Motorsports cars to get into the race. Daly needs to beat two cars as well, but he doesn’t have the luxury of simply being better than, for lack of a better word, a backmarker team.

This year’s non-chartered entry list is considered the deepest and strongest since the charter system was implemented back in 2016.

As for Austin Hill, he and Daly both share in common the fact that they are competing for one-car teams. The other four drivers are all competing for larger and just generally stronger teams that have two chartered entries which are locked into the race.

Beard Motorsports have had success as a one-car team before, but they are only one for two in terms of qualifying for the Daytona 500 since Brendan Gaughan’s retirement. Given the depth of the entry list, it will be challenging for a relatively inexperienced Hill to make it two for three.

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Fox is set to broadcast the Daytona 500 live on Fox beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 19. Begin a free trial of FuboTV today and don’t miss any of the upcoming action from Daytona International Speedway!