NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson could miss the 2024 Daytona 500 entirely

Jimmie Johnson is still not locked into the 40-car field for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 after single-car qualifying.

Jimmie Johnson, Legacy Motor Club, Daytona 500, NASCAR
Jimmie Johnson, Legacy Motor Club, Daytona 500, NASCAR / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
facebooktwitterreddit

With 42 cars on the entry list, only 40 drivers allowed to compete in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, and the 36 charter entries all locked in, six drivers entered Wednesday night's single-car qualifying session knowing that they were not locked into the 66th annual "Great American Race".

The fastest two of these six drivers in Wednesday night's session at the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona Beach, Florida oval locked themselves into the race. Those two drivers ended up being Beard Motorsports' Anthony Alfredo and RFK Racing's David Ragan.

As a result, four drivers are still not locked in. They include Front Row Motorsports' Kaz Grala, NY Racing Team's J.J. Yeley, Live Fast Motorsports' B.J. McLeod, and yes, Legacy Motor Club's Jimmie Johnson.

Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner, could miss the race entirely.

Just two more of these drivers are set to lock themselves into the field in Thursday night's Bluegreen Vacations Duels. Johnson is set to compete in the first 60-lap Duel, along with Alfredo and Yeley. The second is set to feature Ragan, McLeod, and Grala.

The highest finisher of Johnson, Alfredo, and Yeley is set to lock into the Daytona 500 via their Duel result.

While Alfredo is already locked in, him locking in via Duel result would trump him locking in on qualifying speed, in which case Johnson would be in on speed due to being the next fastest qualifier. Among this group of six drivers, Johnson was third quickest in qualifying, followed by McLeod, Yeley, and Grala.

The same can be said for the second group. The highest finisher of Ragan, Grala, and McLeod is also set to lock into the Daytona 500 via their Duel result. Ragan is already locked in, but locking in on Duel result trumps locking in on qualifying speed. So him locking in on Duel result would also lock Johnson in on speed.

McLeod can only fall back on his qualifying speed if both Alfredo and Ragan race their way in, since he was the fourth fastest qualifier among this group. As outlined above, Johnson would also be in under this scenario due to his status as the third fastest qualifier.

Yeley can only get in by beating both Johnson and Alfredo, while Grala can only get in by beating both Ragan and McLeod. The reason for this is the fact that neither one of them has any path to backing in on speed.

Johnson will miss the Daytona 500 entirely if two things happen: (1) Yeley beats him and Alfredo and (2) Ragan doesn't beat both McLeod and Grala. This would ensure that Yeley and either McLeod or Grala race their way in, in which case Alfredo and Ragan would be in on speed.

It's a longshot, but given the chaos that the Duels have produced over the last few years, it's not a possibility that can be totally ruled out. Johnson still controls his own destiny, per se, in that he can lock himself in by simply beating Alfredo and Yeley.

The two drivers who officially end up locking in on qualifying speed are set to start the race on the 20th and final row in 39th and 40th place, while the two drivers who lock in via their Duel results are set to have their starting positions determined by their Duel results. This is why locking on via Duel results trumps locking in on qualifying speed.

Next. NASCAR: 19-year veteran returning to Cup Series after all. NASCAR: 19-year veteran returning to Cup Series after all. dark

Fox Sports 1 is set to provide live coverage of the Bluegreen Vacations Duels from Daytona International Speedway beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET this evening. Watch for free here by signing up for a trial of FuboTV!

feed