Sunday, February 08, 2009

The baffling calculus of Daytona 500 qualifying

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is beginning as I write this early Sunday afternoon, and with any luck I will be finished trying to explain how things work for this race.
I am going to REALLY over-explain this because it’s so convoluted. I’d ask you try to stay with me but I know that’s not possible. Not because you can’t but because there’s no good way to explain it.
The first thing to know is there are now 56 cars entered. James Hylton won’t attempt to qualify because he didn’t complete a lap during Saturday’s practice sessions. That means that each of Thursday’s Gatorade Duels will have 28 cars.
OK, as we start this remember that you have to separate things when it comes to 500 qualifying. You can’t worry about the starting positions in either the Gatorade Duels or the Daytona 500 until you first determine who’s going to be in those races.
In today’s qualifying, the two fastest cars – no matter which ones they are – will get the front-row starting spots for the Daytona 500. The fastest car will also start from the pole in the first Gatorade Duel. The second fastest car will be on the pole for the second of Thursday’s 150-mile qualifying races.
OK, now it starts getting tricky.
For the cars in last year’s top 35 in car owner points, their standing in those points determines which 150 they’ll be in. Cars in odd-numbered positions will be in the first Duel, cars in even-numbered positions in the second.
You should know, though, that Juan Pablo Montoya and Aric Almirola have effectively switched points from last year. Montoya now has the points earned by the No. 8 team last year and Almirola has the points from the No. 42. That means Montoya is 14th and Almirola is 25th.
Also, the No. 41 team is not around this year. No other team has its points. It was 33rd last year, so that means Robby Gordon moves up to 33rd, Scott Speed is 34th and Marcos Ambrose is 35th.
So that means the first 150 will include Jimmie Johnson; Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, David Ragan, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin, Paul Menard, Almirola, John Andretti, Michael Waltrip, Sam Hornish Jr., Robby Gordon and Ambrose. If one of those drivers is second fastest today, he moves to the second Duel.
The second Gatorade Duel will have Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Montoya, Martin Truex Jr., David Stremme, Brian Vickers, Reed Sorenson, Elliott Sadler, David Reutimann, Bobby Labonte, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Speed. If one of those drivers wins the pole today, he moves to the first Duel.
Now comes the fun part.
If the two-front row spots are filled by top 35 cars, that will leave 18 cars in one race and 17 in the other. If that happens, the fastest go-or-go-home car would go into the second race to even things out. The remaining cars would then fill the next spots in each duel, alternating between them. The second-fastest go-or-go-home car would go in the first duel, the next fastest in the second and so on.
If the two front-row spots are filled with go-or-go-homers, you’d have the same thing but with 19 cars in one race and 18 in the other.
If a go-or-go-home car gets a front-row spot, that would leave 18 cars in each duel and the Duel fields would be filled by speeds with the next fastest go-or-go-homer in the first Duel, the next fastest in the second Duel and so on.
When all of that is done, you have 28 cars in each duel. At that point, the speeds of those 28 cars relative to each other determines how they’ll start each Duel.
From that point, it’s all about who makes the 500. But my head hurts already and there are cars on the track. We’ll save that part for another day.


Anonymous said...

Dude, how they qualify determines which deul they are in, not their top 35 owners spot.

David Poole said...

Dude, no it doesn't. Not according to NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

David, quick reply. Way to be on your game, dude.

Anonymous said...

Dude, thats new then because that isnt how they have done it in the past.

Spanky said...

Sat thru the debacle they called qualifying it was about as exciting 2 flys fornicate

Anonymous said...

Dude, why does Edwards get to run in both dual races? LOL

Anonymous said...

David's right, they've been doing it this way for the past few years since the started the Top 35 rule. Before that, quailifying for the 500 did determine what duel you were going to be in.

Anonymous said...

you've watched that?
the flies?

Anonymous said...

My head hurts trying to figure out all the ways you are in or out of the Daytona 500 but I do know this much. IF the Dinger doesn't make the show, it may be "legal" but it aint right on how his top 35 position basically is shoved out of the top 35 by these "mergers" of the likes of Bobby Ginn going to Childress. Yes...the same Ginn that no one has seen for a year and a half. So there are teams now in the top 35 for the start of the year who didn't run a full season. THAT is what makes my head hurt. This qualifying stuff...just makes it icing on the cake.

Anonymous said...

At least we didn't have to watch James Hylton go out there and embarrass the sport and himself as well.

Anonymous said...

I may have missed it in the artical, but you forgot that the top 3 go or go homers are in the race too, just like the front row, now thats confusing.

Mike Lange said...

The problem with this scenario is that fans want to see the fastest 43 cars in the race, not the top 35 cars by owner points, provisionals, phases of the moon or whatever scheme NASCAR comes up with in the future.

Single-car teams have little or no chance of making the field under this scenario, even if the driver busts his ass trying to qualify well.

Anonymous said...

They do the top 35 in points so HMS & RCR are guarateed to have thier cars in the race.Poole helped develop this system.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting to see why he has Edwards in both races.... Dude!

Anonymous said...



majorshouse said...

I still do not understand why we have to have this complicated system. When I started watching NASCAR in the 1960's and the 1970's there was none of this top 35 crap and they should just scrap the way that they are doing it and the top 43 cars that qualify on speed make the race.
I have never seen the need for this top 35 nonsense and the past champion's provisional was developed so that Richard Petty would always make the race

Anonymous said...

If they are going to continue with the top 35, and obviously they are, then they need to revamp this "mess" called Daytona Qualifying. It is like they only did a half-assed job of updating the system. Like they went to the top 35 rule and then got tired and layed down to take a nap before they finished the rule changes (specifically Daytona Quals) and when they awoke they never got back to competing the job. TV and Radio spin it by saying 17 drivers fighting for 4 spots. I agree with Dave Moody, it is no longer qualifying day, but "Arrangement Day".

Anonymous said...

Since Truex and Martin were guaranteed to be on the pole and outside pole, respectively, why did they race in the Gatorade Duels? Since no points are involved, what is the point in taking unnecessary risk damaging your car for the Daytona 500?

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