Kicking Through Qualifying
February 7, 2007
Kicking Through The Confusion of Daytona 500 Qualifying
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 7, 2007) – Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is definitely unique.
This year, for an impressive list of big-name drivers, it also will be undoubtedly unforgiving.
Daytona 500 qualifying has three elements: Sunday’s Budweiser Pole Day and next Thursday’s two 150-mile Gatorade Duel at Daytona qualifying races – plus the factoring in of the final 2006 car owner point standings’ top 35.
Here’s what we know:
* On Budweiser Pole Day, the top two qualifiers are “locked in” for the front row of the Daytona 500, set for Sunday, February 18 at Daytona International Speedway.
* Those top 35 teams from the final 2006 owner points also are assured spots in the Daytona 500, leaving what we’ll call a group of “non-35s” on the outside looking in, forced to literally race their way into the 500. And what a group that is, as it includes five former Daytona 500 champions: Sterling Marlin, Michael Waltrip, Bill Elliott, Ward Burton and Derrike Cope.
* From each Gatorade Duel race, the top two “non-35” finishers will earn starting spots.
* To complete the field, positions 40-43 will be filled by the four fastest non-35 drivers from Budweiser Pole Day who didn’t qualify via their Gatorade Duel finishes. Or maybe … it’ll be the three fastest; if a past series champion has failed to qualify via pole day or the duel races, he’ll get the 43rd and final spot via the Past Champion Provisional.
This is a qualifying format that can seem a bit complex. But this year, there is a harsh reality that cuts through the complexity and keeps it simple via this bottom line: Starting spots for the Daytona 500 are going to be harder than ever to come by.