The majority of the starting lineup for the Daytona 500 is decided by the Can-Am Duels. These are two qualifying races that are held a few days before the main race. However, there is also a qualifying race that takes place a few days before these duals that also had a role to play in determining the lineup.
You need to know everything about Daytona 500 Qualifying.
The top two places in the Daytona 500 will be taken by the fastest two drivers in the first race which takes place over a single lap. The results of the Can-Am Duel determine a large part of the rest of the field which is what makes these races so popular. Drivers cannot compete in the Can-Am unless they have qualified for it through the initial race.
All qualifying races take place at the Daytona International Speedway. The Can-Am is a 150 mile race which means that drivers have to complete 60 laps of the track. There are two races and an equal number of teams from each race or ‘duel’ will qualify for the Daytona 500. There are 66 cars in total that are able to compete in both duels.
The order that each driver finishes in their duel will determine the order that they line up in when taking part in the Daytona 500. Those that take part in the first duel will line up on the inside row with odd numbered starting positions in the order that they finished the duel. Those from the second duel will take the even numbered positions on the outside of the track.
All Charter teams will automatically qualify for the Daytona 500 but the Can-Am means that Open teams also have the chance to qualify for the race. The top Open team from each duel will win a spot in the race. If they have not yet become eligible for a position on the starting grid then this will be awarded if there are any positions left. As stated in the rule book, this will be based on the final qualifying results.
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Finishing in the top ten of each dual does not automatically mean that the driver will make the playoffs. It will give them points that count towards the main race though. The winner of each duel will get ten points with the person finishing second receiving nine points and so on. There are points available for the drivers that finish in the top ten spaces and so these are the positions that are most highly coveted.
If a driver is locked into the front row of the Daytona 500 then they need to take a lot of care during the duels. There is a lot that can go wrong with the car during a race and because the duels are held so close to the Daytona 500 there may not be a lot of time to put things right. If the car is involved in a crash or gets a severe mechanical failure then a backup car may be needed for the actual race and this is not an ideal situation for any driver.
Bad weather has been known to affect the duels in the past but there are procedures in place in the event that one or both of the races are unable to go ahead. If both duels are unable to take place then the qualifying results from the single lap race will be used to select the four Open teams that make it into the Daytona 500. If only one duel can take place then one Open team will be selected from this race and the other three from the shorter first race.
In most cases where the duels are rained off efforts will be made to reschedule. This is also the same for the first qualifying race. If none of the races are able to go ahead then there will be no qualifying times from which the order can be determined. In this case the NASCAR rule book would have to be consulted to find a fair way of setting the order of the drivers.