Daytona 500 qualifying is a unique setup with single car qualifying that does not set the entire field. The racers race to set the starting order and open qualifiers have the chance to set their fate inside pack racing. After mechanical issues, Conor Daly must finish as the first open car in the second of the 2 duels while Austin Hill, Zane, and Chandler Smith will also be vying for the final 2 openings.
What You Need To Know:
- With just 2 open spots left for the Daytona 500 starting grid; Austin Hill, Zane and Chandler Smith, and Conor Daly are all gearing up to race their way in.
- The Duels are two 60 lap races with 21 cars each to set the starting order behind the front row of the 500.
- In addition to the starting order, this year’s duels also feature talented NASCAR names competing for the shot at NASCAR’s biggest stage.
With the oil line issues preventing a qualifying run, Conor Daly will go straight to racing in the duels Thursday night.
Chandler Smith also experienced some mechanical issues during his qualifying effort and will have to be the leading open car to finish the first duel.
Meanwhile, Zane Smith and Austin Hill have options in their duels. As the 3rd and 4th open qualifiers, they could be in based on the finishing position of Jimmie Johnson and Travis Pastrana. If one of the two locked in drivers finishes as the lead open driver, Zane Smith will qualify on speed. If both JJ and Pastrana lead the open drivers in their respective duels, both Hill and ZSmith will qualify on speed. They could also race with their way in, as CSmith and Daly must.
Around the Garage
With Michael McDowell in the first duel, Zane has a teammate to support his racing effort.
ZSmith also has a teammate in duel 2 in the form of Todd Gilliland. Should Gilliland desire, he can make the racing tougher on Zane’s competitors.
Couch Racer – ran by spotters Brett Griffin and Freddie Kraft – brought up a major disparity between the leading open qualifier and the slowest single-car lap time of the field.
The mechanical issues notwithstanding, there is an interesting difference between Jimmie Johnson and the rest of the open qualifiers. Only 1 of the 6 was allowed to test the 2023 Cup car ahead of their qualifying run.
In the Stands
Kathy Jones on Twitter commiserated with Chandler Smith on his reliability issues in the qualifying round.
Many fans believe the drivers should have been able to practice at Daytona prior to qualifying in order to shake out some of the early season bugs.
With 4 drivers left and several permutations of how the 2 spots will be filled, fans are having fun guessing the final open spots.
In Your Ear
Corey LaJoie reacted to the qualifying round and broke down the final open opportunities on his podcast, Stacking Pennies.
On Your Screen
The NASCAR Weekly Podcast streamed their immediate reaction to qualifying, analyzing what might happen with the duels.
From the Pressbox
Analytics specialist for FanDuel, Jim Sannes gave percentages from their computer models.
This open qualifying battle is a hot storyline that many will be watching Thursday night, making the run-up to the 500 even more entertaining.