2024 Daytona 500 Qualifying Format 101

Seventy days after the final checkered flag of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season flew, the time until the first green flag of the 2024 Cup Series season displays is four days away from occurring. For the teams and competitors who enter this season with the desire to gain a competitive edge over one another, the long regular-season battle to the Playoffs commences with this weekend’s 66th annual running of the Great American Race.

The Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, with the event’s iconic Haley J. Earl Trophy, is up for grabs and epic bragging rights to forever be labeled a Daytona 500 champion.

Before this year’s Daytona 500 occurs, however, the teams and competitors will have to battle amongst one another through the event’s iconic two-day qualifying procedure that would enable them to achieve and earn a starting spot as high as possible over one another. What makes the Daytona 500’s qualifying procedure iconic?

In comparison to 35 of 36 scheduled events where the starting grid for a Cup Series event is determined one day before the main event, the qualifying format for the Daytona 500 is distinct, where it once took a week until the starting lineup for the Daytona 500 is determined. Since the 2021 season, it would take between three and four days until the official starting grid for the Great American Race would be determined.

The qualifying format for this year’s Daytona 500 commences with a single-car qualifying procedure on Wednesday, February 14, where each of the registered competitors (42 total in 2024) will run one timed lap around the 2.5-mile superspeedway venue. The single-car qualifying procedure will span two rounds, with the second round featuring the top 10 fastest competitors to contend for the pole position for the Daytona 500. At the conclusion of the second qualifying session, the competitor who generates the fastest lap time will be awarded the Busch Light Pole Award for the Daytona 500 while the competitor who generates the second-fastest lap time will be awarded the second-place starting spot for the 500-mile season opener, thus guaranteeing both front row starting spots for the main event.

The single-car qualifying procedure/sessions on Wednesday will also be a night of epic rewards for two competitors competing in open-chart (“open”) entries, meaning that their respective cars are not guaranteed a starting spot for the Daytona 500 due to not having a charter. At the conclusion of the single-car qualifying procedure, the top two open-chartered competitors who post the top two fastest qualifying times compared to the remaining open-chartered competitors will be guaranteed starting spots for the Great American Race based on their qualifying speed.

The rest of the competitors, including the open-charted teams currently not guaranteed a starting spot, will battle one another for their official starting spots for the Daytona 500 through a pair of Bluegreen Vacation Duels at Daytona that will occur on Thursday, February 15.

The first Bluegreen Vacation Duel at Daytona will consist of competitors who qualified in the odd positions during Wednesday’s single-car qualifying procedure, including the Daytona 500 pole winner, with the event spanning 60 laps. The second Duel event that will follow suit and also span 60 laps will consist of competitors who qualified in the even positions during the qualifying procedure, including the Daytona 500 second-place starter.

At the conclusion of both Duel events, the winning competitor in each Duel will be awarded the second-row starting spots, third and fourth place, for the Daytona 500. In the scenario where the Daytona 500 pole winner or second-place starter wins their respective Duel events while also retaining the front-row starting spots for the Great American Race, the third- and fourth-place starting spot will be awarded to the runner-up finisher between both Duel events.

Each finishing result in the first Duel event will determine the official starting lineup for the odd (“inside lane”) row for the Daytona 500, with the winner starting in third place for the 500, second starting fifth, third starting seventh, etc., in the respective order, while the finishing result in the second Duel event will determine the lineup for the even (“outside lane”) row for the 500, with the winner starting in fourth place, second starting sixth, third starting eighth, etc. In addition, the top-10 finishing competitors between both Duel events will be awarded points that count towards the regular-season stretch but not towards the Playoffs, with the winning competitor receiving 10 points while the 10th-place finisher receives just one.

Lastly and transitioning back to the theme of open-charter teams, the highest-finishing non-chartered competitor between both Duel events will secure a starting spot for the Daytona 500. If the highest-finishing non-chartered competitor in a Duel happens to be a competitor who is already guaranteed a starting spot for the 500 based on Wednesday’s single-car qualifying procedure, the next fastest non-chartered competitor will be awarded a spot in the Great American Race.

Upon completion of both Duel events, the starting spots 1st through 40th for this year’s 66th annual running of the Daytona 500 will be officially determined in preparation for the main event that will occur on Sunday, February 18. Even before the main event, the qualified Cup Series teams and competitors will then practice around Daytona once on Friday, February 16, at 5:35 p.m. ET on FS1 before practicing for the second and final time on Saturday, February 17, at 10:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

The 2024 Daytona 500 entry list features 42 competitors registered to battle for 40 starting spots for the main event, meaning that two non-chartered competitors will not make the main event on Sunday, February 18. This year’s open-chartered competitors feature Anthony Alfredo, Kaz Grala, Jimmie Johnson, BJ McLeod and David Ragan. NY Racing, a non-chartered team, is also entered for this weekend’s event, though a driver has yet to be named. From this list of six, two names will have their names locked into the 500 after Wednesday’s single-car qualifying procedure and two more will be locked in after Thursday’s Duels.

Currently, Johnson is the only non-chartered competitor from last season to return for another bid to claim a starting spot for this year’s 500. The seven-time Cup Series champion and two-time Daytona 500 champion from El Cajon, California, raced his way into last year’s 500 based on his qualifying speed and during his first event as a driver/co-owner of Legacy Motor Club. Returning for his first of nine planned Cup events this season, Johnson, who was also inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in mid-January, will bid for his 21st start and potentially his third victory in the Great American Race.

Photo by Patrick Sue-Chan for SpeedwayMedia.com.

Earlier on Tuesday, February 13, the qualifying order for Wednesday’s single-car qualifying procedure was determined based on a random draw, where the ordered competitors will roll off of pit lane to post a single qualifying lap and contend for pole position for the Daytona 500. Following the random draw, newcomer Carson Hocevar will qualify first followed by Anthony Alfredo, Zane Smith, Ryan Preece, Justin Haley, David Ragan, AJ Allmendinger, BJ McLeod, John Hunter Nemechek and Riley Herbst.

2024 Daytona 500 Qualifying Order

This past season, Alex Bowman notched his third pole award and his sixth consecutive front-row starting spot for the Daytona 500 after the Tucson, Arizona, native posted a pole-winning lap at 181.686 mph in 49.536 seconds, where he shared the front row with teammate Kyle Larson. Bowman’s 2023 Daytona 500 pole also marked the eighth 500 pole award in nine years for Hendrick Motorsports and the 11th consecutive year where the Chevrolet nameplate achieved a pole for the Great American Race. Bowman will attempt to join Buddy Baker, Bill Elliott and Cale Yarborough in achieving the most Daytona 500 poles with four entering the 2024 season while Larson will attempt to win his second 500 pole after winning his first in 2022.

During the 2023 Daytona Speedweeks, Joey Logano and Aric Almirola each won a Bluegreen Vacations Duel while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. would proceed to win the 65th running of the Daytona 500 amid two overtime shootouts and emerging out in front of Logano and the field prior to a final multi-car wreck. Stenhouse’s victory made him the 42nd different competitor to win the Great American Race as he also delivered the first 500 victory for JTG-Daugherty Racing and veteran crew chief Mike Kelley. Stenhouse and Logano, the 2015 Daytona 500 champion, are set to contend for this year’s 500 event as full-time Cup Series competitors for JTG-Daugherty Racing and Team Penske, respectively, while Almirola has scaled back to the Xfinity Series on a part-time basis with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Photo by Patrick Sue-Chan for SpeedwayMedia.com.

The 2024 Daytona 500 Qualifying session is scheduled to occur on Wednesday, February 14, and air at 8:15 p.m. ET on FS1. The Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona will follow suit on Thursday, February 15, and air beginning at 7 p.m. ET on FS1. The 66th running of the Daytona 500 is scheduled to commence on Sunday, February 18, and air at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com


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