Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is unlike qualifying for any other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, and that’s especially true this year with the advent of the Charter system.
Here’s a quick primer on Daytona 500 qualifying, which takes place today at 1 p.m. ET live on FOX.
A total of 44 cars are entered for the 40-car field in the Daytona 500. Today, all 44 drivers will attempt to qualify individually. Each driver will get a warm-up lap and one timed lap.
After all 44 drivers have made his or her qualifying lap, the 12 fastest qualifiers will then take part in a second round of single-car qualifying. The driver who is fastest in the second round of qualifying will be the Daytona 500 polesitter. The second-fastest driver in Round 2 will start the 500 on the outside of Row 1.
Starting positions 3-40 will be determined in Thursday night’s Can-Am Duel qualifying races at Daytona.
In the 40-car field, the 36 Charter teams are guaranteed starting spots. There are eight non-charter teams — NASCAR calls them "Open" teams — in the 500. Four of the eight will qualify for the 500 and four won’t.
The highest finishing Open team in each Can-Am Duel race will earn a starting position in the 500.
The final two starting positions will be awarded to Open teams based on qualifying speed if not already a top finisher in a Duel race.
Qualifying sets the front row for the Daytona 500 and the starting lineup for the Can-Am Duel fields, with the number of Charter team and Open team cars split evenly throughout both races.