How Qualifying Works for the 2013 ‘Daytona 500’

by on February 20, 2013

in sports

2013 'Daytona 500' QualifyingWhy does it take so many days to set the field for the Daytona 500?  How does qualifying work for the Daytona 500?  These are questions I get often and I thought I’d address that today.

Yes, for a single race, a lot of effort and resources goes into qualifying for the “Great American Race.” But this is THE Super Bowl of NASCAR and is one of the pinnacle events of the auto racing industry itself.  It’s an event and a destination all in one as Daytona International Speedway hosts this NASCAR event for multiple days that lead up to the event.

For the race prep, (This does not count private practices by teams at what ever secret facility they choose), there are Speedweeks practice where everyone gets back into the groove after the off-season.  This also give fans a taste of what’s to come.  In this case, they introduced the new Gen-6 cars to the sport this year.

Then there’s front row qualifying where the entire field, one car at a time, takes a run at the pole-position for the 500.  This session also sets fields for the twin qualifying races the following Thursday which then sets the starting field for the race.

But How Does Qualifying For the 2013 Daytona 500 Work?

The qualifying process for the Daytona 500 integrates all of qualifying, from the single car timing runs, to the Duel qualifiers that are run the Thursday prior to the 500.  Plus there’s a bit of a new wrinkle with owners points.  Starting this year, the “top-35 in owners points” rule is gone*.  So this is how the process will work:

The first two spots are set by the single car timing runs the Sunday prior to the Daytona 500**.

The Budweiser Duel qualifying races will be run.  There are two 150-mile races, and the field is split between the two events.  This is run the Thursday before The Great American Race.  In the Duels,

Starting positions 3 through 32 are set.  Those who finish in the top-15 in each race will be in the Daytona 500.  If any of the top 15 spots are the two cars that are in the front row, then the 16th car also gets into the race field for Sunday.

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky:

Starting spots 33 through 36 will go to those who didn’t finish in the top 15(16) spots in the Duel qualifiers, but have the fastest qualifying speeds from the previous single-car runs from the previous Sunday.

Starting spots 37 through 42 will then be based on owner points from the 2012 season

The 43rd starting spot will either be

  • A past champion’s provisional (If they’re not already in the field)
  • Or the next driver eligible via 2012 owner points.

And that’s that.  On the down side, the race used to give a couple of teams that weren’t in the top-35 owners points a shot at the field, but it looks like the pack has been made a wee bit more exclusive with the new rules.  It doesn’t amount to much of a change, but if the rules stick, then it will put more of a premium on getting those owners points under your belt for next year.

*Owners Points Rule Change:  After the Daytona 500, the new 36-6-1 qualifying rule is that the top 36 cars in qualifying rill race that weekend.  The next next 6 spots are set by owner points, the last spot either a past-champion provisional or next in owner points.  They’ve also returned to random drawing for qualifying runs.  (I really liked it when they set the qualifying via practice speeds, but that’s just me.)

So even though they’ve changed the rule, it’s still, in the end, set by owners points and no name driver should ever go home on any given race weekend.

2013 'Daytona 500' pole sitter, Danica Patrick

** The pole winner this year was Danica Patrick (driving for Tony Stewart’s Stewart-Haas Racing).  She became the first woman ever to win a pole position in a NASCAR race in any of their three major divisions.  And this is only her second attempt at getting into the race.  Last year they bought her owner points so she could get her bright green GoDaddy car in there.

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