How Daytona 500 qualifying works

How NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500 field is set through qualifying, Duels

Making the field for the Daytona 500 can bring a thrill to a smaller team trying to open the season on a high note — or a new group getting off to a top start.

Qualifying for this race is unlike any other in the NASCAR Sprint Cup season. So how exactly does one make the field for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway (Sunday, Noon ET on FOX)? We’ll take you through it.

So far, only two drivers are locked into their starting positions - Danica Patrick and Jeff Gordon. The next four from qualifying - Trevor Bayne, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne - are locked into the race, but not their starting positions. Those will be set in the Budweiser Duels or, if for some reason they do not lock in with their finishing position there, would start in the 33-36 spots based on their original qualifying speeds.

Qualifying did set the lineup for today's races, though. Patrick and Gordon earned the pole positions for the two races and the drivers who earned an even-number position in qualifying will be in the first Duel and those in odd-number positions will be in the second Duel.

The highest 15 finishers in each Duel race — excluding the polesitter in each race — will earn a spot in the Daytona 500 and fill positions 3-32. Based on finishing position in the Duels, those competing in the first race will line up on the inside row in the odd-number starting positions, while those from the second Duel will line up in the even-number spots.

And then points come into play.

The next four positions (33-36) go to the four fastest cars from qualifying that have not already earned a spot in the field. The next six positions (37-42) will go to the highest cars in 2012 owners points that have not already earned a spot in the field.

The final position is assigned to the car owner with the most recent eligible past champion that did compete in 2012 but did not make the field. If there is no one who meets that criteria, then the slot will go to the next highest car in 2012 owners points that is not already in the field.

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