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How the Daytona 500 qualifying process determines the starting lineup

The Daytona 500 uses a unique qualifying system to determine the 40-card race order. We break down all the details for the starting lineup.

Thursday update: Follow along for Duel 1 and Duel 2 results to set Daytona 500 starting lineup

Wednesday update: Follow along for qualifying results

The Daytona 500 kicks off the NASCAR season each year, and it brings with it a unique qualifying process. There are time trials followed by a pair of qualifying races. 36 spots are guaranteed to charter teams and then the final four spots are determined through the race and time trial performances. All of it sets up the 40-car field for The Great American Race.

What is the schedule of events?

Single car qualifying time trial: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2: Thursday, 20 minutes after the completion of Duel 1
Daytona 500: Sunday, 2:30 p.m

What is the single car qualifying time trial?

The time trial determines the two cars that will be on the front row of Sunday’s race. Each car makes a run around the track attempting to finish as fast as possible. The two cars that run the fastest laps during the time trial claim those spots. 36 of the remaining 38 spots are then determined by the two Duel races. The final two spots, we’ll get back to.

What are the Duels?

The Duels, previously known and sometimes still called the twin-125s, are currently called Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 and Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 — sponsor always subject to change in NASCAR. The Duels are a pair of 60-lap, 150 mile races to determine the rest of the race order.

If they’re 150 miles, why are they called twin-125s?

The qualifying Duels were originally 100 miles when the Daytona 500 started in 1959. In 1969, the Duels were extended to 125 miles, which they remained until 2004. They’ve been 150 or 160 miles each year since, although primarily 150 miles.

How is the order for the Duels determined?

The odd-numbered finishers in the time trial will line up in order of speed in Duel 1, and the even-numbered finishers will line up in order of speed in Duel 2.

How do the Duels determine the Daytona 500 starting lineup?

The drivers competing in Duel 1 will be lined up on the inside row of the Daytona 500 and the drivers competing in Duel 2 will be lined up on the outside row. They are placed in order of Duel finish for the charter teams.

How many cars drive in the Daytona 500?

There will be 40 cars lined up on Sunday. 36 are guaranteed to teams with charters. A team gets a charter if they are a full-time Cup Series team. The charter system was designed back in 2016 and required teams have been active in a full-time capacity since at least 2013.

The remaining four spots in the Daytona 500 starting grid are “open” for teams that don’t have a full-time charter.

How are the four open spots determined?

The final four spots are usually a competition between eight or more teams on the entry list. The fastest open team in each duel race gets a spot in the Daytona 500 field. Additionally, the two open teams that had the fastest times from single-car qualifying that didn’t qualify through the duels will get the last two spots in the field. All four start at the rear of the entry field.

What if there is a rain cancellation of qualifying?

The 2021 weather forecast calls for rain most of the week including on race day itself. the NASCAR rulebook offers extensive details on how the race order will be determined based on various scenarios.

  • If the entire qualifying schedule is rained out, owners’ points from the previous season will determine the Daytona 500 race order.
  • If the single-car qualifying time trial takes place, but the Duels do not, the race order is based on qualifying time.
  • If one Duel takes place but the other is canceled due to weather, the results of the first Duel will set up the inside row. All teams that were going to compete in the second Duel will line up single file on the outside row in order of their previously scheduled second Duel starting position.