Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is unlike any other qualifying procedure in auto racing. Drivers have two chances to qualify for the season-opening race, as opposed to the one qualifying session format used at other races.
The first chance: Daytona 500 Qualifying.
The second chance: The Gatorade Duel at Daytona, two 150-mile qualifying races held on Thursday.
Below is a breakdown of the Daytona 500 qualifying procedure:
The two 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday will determine the starting lineup for the Daytona 500.
Daytona 500 Qualifying Day
• Each team may run two laps with the fast lap counting as a qualifying time. The two fastest qualifiers are "locked in" to the front row for the Daytona 500. Those are the race's only guaranteed positions coming out of qualifying day.
• The Gatorade Duel at Daytona, two 150-mile qualifying races, determine starting positions for the Daytona 500 beyond the front row. In the event of cancellation, the field will be set according to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rule Book.
• The highest-ranked 35 teams in final 2009 car owner points will be assigned to Gatorade Duel races based on those points. Teams with odd-numbered owner points positions will compete in the first Gatorade Duel race; even-numbered owners will compete in the second.
• The only exception is that the fastest qualifier from Daytona 500 qualifying will start on the pole in the first Gatorade Duel race and the second fastest qualifier will start on the pole in the second, regardless of 2009 car owner points.
• Teams who failed to finish in the top 35 of the 2009 owner points will be assigned to a Gatorade Duel race based on qualifying times. The fastest qualifying team goes to the first Duel; the second-fastest next to the second, etc., alternating through the remaining entries.
• Starting positions for the Gatorade Duel races are based on qualifying times.
Daytona 500 Lineup
• The two fastest qualifiers are locked into the front row.
• Finishing positions in the Gatorade Duel races will determine the other starting positions in the Daytona 500.
• The top two "non-top 35" teams in each Duel race will earn a spot in the Daytona 500.
• Based on their finish in the first Duel race, the highest-ranked 35 in 2009 car owner points plus the two highest finishing non-top 35 teams will be lined up on the inside row (odd-number starting positions).
• Based on their finish in the second Duel race, the eligible highest ranked 35 plus the two highest finishing non-top 35 teams will be lined up on the outside row (even-number starting positions).
• The remaining positions will be filled based on qualifying.
• If one or both teams on the front row are not top-35 teams, the number of teams that get in based on time are reduced accordingly.
• The 43rd starting position will be assigned to any owner who has the most recent eligible past NASCAR Sprint Cup champion who did not make the race by any other method providing the driver competed in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. If the 43rd position remains unused it will be assigned to the next highest qualifying time.
The bottom line, regarding who gets locked in the Daytona 500 field:
• The top two qualifiers from Sunday.
• The remaining top 35 guaranteed starters.
• Four drivers from the Gatorade Duel at Daytona (two non-top 35s from each race)
• Remaining drivers not in through the above methods can fall back on Sunday's qualifying times or being a past champion.