Welcome fans to the Daytona 500 Qualifying. The Daytona 500 is the first race of the year. And it is the only race that the line up is not determined by qualifying. Qualifying for the Daytona 500 only locks in the pole and second place positions. This year starts the new Sponsor of the pole award, Coors Lite. So they are qualifying for the Coors Lite Pole Award.
On Thursday, Feb. 12 there will be the Gatorade Duels. The way this works is the way you qualified today is how you line up on Thursday. Odd numbers line up behind the pole sitter. Even numbers line up behind the second place driver. And those races determine the line up for the Daytona 500.
Today there were 57 cars entered to try to qualify. One of them, 74 year old James Hylton, couldn’t get his car to fire up for practice. And so, was not allowed to qualify. Those locked into the top 35 in owner points from 2008 qualified first. Followed by the rest of the cars. So, there were twenty-two cars trying to qualify for eight spots. Actually, only seven spots, since there were three Past Champions who could get locked in.
The past Champions this year, trying to get into the Daytona 500 are, in order, #14 Tony Stewart, #66 Terry Labonte and #21 Bill Elliott. Tony is now co-owner of his new team, so he has no owner points to fall back on. But he is the most recent Champion, so he will be locked in.
#24 Jeff Gordon went out first and set the pace. #5 Mark Martin knocked Jeff off the pole with a speed of 187.82. And then #1 Martin Truex, Jr. knocked Mark off with a speed of 188.00! He came out twenty-seventh. After all was said and done, #1 is on the pole and #5 will start second. Three positions are also locked in, the fastest of those not in the top 35. #21 Bill Elliott, #28 Travis Kvappil and #14 Tony Stewart. So no matter how they do in the Duels, they will race in the Daytona 500. And that also means that #66 Terry Labonte will also be in the race, since he is the past Champion and can take his provisional.
The Gatorade Duels on Thursday will determine starting spots 3-39. Positions 40-42 will be determined by the fastest cars not already qualified for the Daytona 500. And 43rd goes to the past Champion, if needed. If Terry races his way in, a third car will get in on speed. Complicated, I know but that’s how this first race has always been done. You see, the first race of the Season is also the “Super Bowl”. So, everything about the race is special.
Brought to you by Sheila Hawley
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