Daytona Beach, Fla – Qualifying for the 59th annual Daytona 500 is now in the books as that means only the front row qualifiers are locked into their starting spot for next Sunday’s race. Everyone else, will have their starting positions set by virtue of their finishing position in Thursday night’s Can-Am Duels in Daytona (7 pm ET/FS1/MRN).
Those lineups are now set as well.
Unlike in the years past, the Duels will offer points to the top 10 in each race, which in turn will make things even more interesting on Thursday night. In the past few years, with limited car counts and guaranteed spots by virtue of Charters, teams would just ride around because they knew that their place in the Daytona 500 was set. Why risk crashing your car in a race where starting position doesn’t matter?
Now, with points on the line, and how championships are now decided by the slimmest of margins, every point matters. With only the top 10 finishers getting points in the Duels, everyone wants to get in the top 10 to take points with them into the Daytona 500. That in turn makes these two races the most intense that we’ve seen them in a while.
The last three years (six races) Hendrick or Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have won each one.
Can-Am Duel No. 1:
Row 1: Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski
Row 2: Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick
Row 3: Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch
Row 4: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Daniel Suarez R
Row 5: Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne
Row 6: Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray
Row 7: Aric Almirola, Landon Cassill
Row 8: Matt DiBenedetto, Chris Buescher
Row 9: Brendan Gaughan, Cole Whitt
Row 10: Reed Sorenson, Joey Gase
Row 11: Corey LaJoie R
Can-Am Duel No. 2:
Row 1: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer
Row 2: Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne
Row 3: Ryan Newman, Ty Dillon R
Row 4: Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson
Row 5: Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones R
Row 6: Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick
Row 7: Austin Dillon, A.J. Allmendinger
Row 8: Michael McDowell, David Ragan
Row 9: Michael Waltrip, Elliott Sadler
Row 10: D.J. Kennington, Jeffrey Earnhardt
Row 11: Timmy Hill
What is the format?
There are two 60-lap, 150-mile races. Who is in which Duel is determined based on qualifying speeds from Sunday’s single-lap qualifying runs.
How do the Duels set the Daytona 500 lineup?
The Duels determine who will line up in spots 3-38 on the starting grid for the “Great American Race” after Sunday’s qualifying speeds saw the Hendrick Motorsports duo of Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr. earn front row spots for the 2017 Daytona 500.
Drivers in the first Duel race will line up on the inside row for the Daytona 500 (odd-numbered starting position), based on the order in which they finish the first Duel race. Drivers in the second Duel race will line up on the outside row for the Daytona 500 (even-numbered starting positions), based on the order in which they finish the second Duel race. Remember, all 36 Charter teams are guaranteed spots in the Daytona 500.
How can open teams make the Daytona 500?
Two open teams will make the field based on their qualifying speed from Sunday’s single-car qualifying runs. The other two open spots come from the best finishing open teams in each Duel. Should the fastest qualifying open team driver earn a spot based on his or her Duel result, then the next fastest open team would get in based on qualifying speed.
Sadler and Gaughan had the fastest entries among the open teams in single-car qualifying and are locked into the Daytona 500 field.
The open team entries that will battle for two Daytona 500 spots in the Duels are Timmy Hill (No. 51 Chevrolet), Reed Sorenson (No. 55 Toyota), Corey LaJoie (No. 83 Toyota) and DJ Kennington (No. 96 Toyota).
How important are the Duels for drivers locked into the front row?
Very important because of the race enhancements NASCAR announced last month. While a Duel win doesn’t put you in the Chase, the top 10 drivers in each Duel will earn points heading into the Daytona 500. Points for Duel results have not occurred before this year.
Drivers locked into the front row need to avoid any sort of calamity to keep their starting spot. With qualifying day so early in Speedweeks and a multitude of practices over three days leading up to the Daytona 500, wrecks resulting in backup cars, engine changes and more are all likely to pop up at some point to affect the green-flag order once on the grid.
How are points awarded?
It’s similar to stages in the 36 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races. Meaning the winner of each Duel will get 10 points down to the 10th-place driver, who will get one point. Two drivers — each Duel winner — will head into the Daytona 500 with a share of the point lead.