Often referred to as NASCAR’s Super Bowl, the Daytona 500 is the sport’s biggest event. Consistently, that’s when most people are watching; it’s the race that garners the most attention from the mainstream public, similar to what the Indy 500 is to Indycar. Historically, this is also the race where more than the standard 40 cars show up in an attempt to make the Great American Race.

With the Daytona 500 on the horizon, we here at the Daily Downforce thought it would be a good idea to go over the process of qualifying for the Daytona 500. Who makes the race, and who is left on the outside looking in? Let’s break it down.

Chartered Teams

First and foremost, there are the chartered teams. Charters are essentially what franchises are to the NFL. Teams that possess charters are entitled to certain benefits from race and TV revenue to a certain percentage of the purse winnings. Chartered teams are guaranteed starting sports in all 36 points-paying races that make up the NASCAR Cup Series schedule. That means that when the cars take to the high banks for time trials prior to the Duels, these guys are breathing a little easier as they are guaranteed a starting spot in the Great American Race.

Chartered teams include:

  • #1 of Ross Chastain (Trackhouse)
  • #2 of Austin Cendric (Team Penske)
  • #3 of Austin Dillon (RCR)
  • #4 of Josh Berry (SHR)
  • #5 of Kyle Larson (HMS)
  • #6 of Brad Keselowski (RFK)
  • #7 of Corey LaJoie (Spire)
  • #8 of Kyle Busch (RCR)
  • #9 of Chase Elliott (HMS)
  • #10 of Noah Gragson (SHR)
  • #11 of Denny Hamlin (JGR)
  • #12 of Ryan Blaney (Team Penske)
  • #14 of Chase Briscoe (SHR)
  • #15 of TBA (RWR)
  • #16 of A. J. Allmendinger (for the 500; Kaulig)
  • #17 of Chris Buescher (for RFK)
  • #19 of Martin Truex Jr. (JGR)
  • #20 of Christopher Bell (JGR)
  • #21 of Harrison Burton (Wood Brothers)
  • #22 of Joey Logano (Team Penske)
  • #23 of Bubba Wallace (23XI)
  • #24 of William Byron (HMS)
  • #31 of Daniel Hemric (Kaulig)
  • #34 of Michael McDowell (Front Row)
  • #38 of Todd Gilliland (Front Row)
  • #41 of Ryan Preece (SHR)
  • #42 of John Hunter Nemechek (LMC)
  • #43 of Erik Jones (LMC)
  • #45 of Tyler Reddick (23XI)
  • #47 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (JTG Daugherty)
  • #48 of Alex Bowman (HMS)
  • #51 of Justin Haley (RWR)
  • #54 of Ty Gibbs (JGR)
  • #71 of Zane Smith (Spire)
  • #77 of Carson Hocevar (Spire)
  • #99 of Daniel Suarez (Trackhouse)

That makes 36 entries who are guaranteed a starting spot in the 2024 Daytona 500. That leaves open 4 spots to make up a full 40-car field. If only 4 open cars show up, the field is pretty much set. But what happens when more than 4 open cars show up to qualify for the Daytona 500?

Open Entries

In NASCAR, an “Open Entry” is, essentially, the opposite of a chartered team. These cars usually have no affiliation with larger teams and manufacturers (there are exceptions, though) and their goal is just to make the race. These entries used to be called “Go-or-Go-Homers”. If more than 4 open cars show up for any given race, the ones left over will not get to race in the big main event on Sunday.

While the number of open entries is fairly fluid, so far for 2024 there are 5 open entries scheduled to attempt to make the Daytona 500. That means that at least 1 car will be going home once all the qualifying festivities are said and done. The 2024 entries slated to attempt to make the Daytona 500 field are:

  • #36 of Kaz Grala (Front Row)
  • #60 of David Regan (RFK)
  • #62 of Anthony Alfredo (Beard Motorsports)
  • #78 of B. J. McLeod (Live Fast Motorsports)
  • #84 of Jimmie Johnson (LMC)

More cars can and might be added to the entry list between now and time trials. Drivers have until the Wednesday morning prior to the 500 to enter the event. Once their cars enter and pass inspection, they are then moved to the qualifying grid where they will attempt to qualify in that night.

Qualifying

Typically, qualifying for the Daytona 500 takes place the Wednesday night the week of the Daytona 500. The format for qualifying is that each driver on the entry list will make a single-lap, single-car qualifying attempt. For the chartered teams, these trials are primarily to see who will sit on the front row for the big race on Sunday. The pole winner and the outside pole winner will start 1st and 2nd in Sunday’s 500 while the rest of the field will use their runs to qualify for Thursday night’s duels.

For the open cars, there is a little more at stake. The fastest 2 open cars to qualify on Wednesday, no matter their position, will be locked into the Daytona 500 on speed. This will make their race in the Thursday night duels a little less nerve-racking. That leaves only 2 spots left and for the other 3 (or more) open drivers, they will have to race their way in by finishing the highest in their respective duel races.

In 2023, the two drivers who qualified in on speed were 7-time Cup Champion, Jimmie Johnson, and Travis Pastrana who drove a third entry for 23XI, the number 67 Toyota.

The Duels at Daytona

The Duels at Daytona take place on the Thursday night prior to Sunday’s Daytona 500 and is, essentially, two twin 150-mile qualifying races. The pole winner from last night’s single-car qualifying session will start on the pole for the first duel. He will be followed by the 3rd qualifying chartered car, the 5th place car, the 7th place car, etc. Meanwhile, the outside pole winner from Wednesday night’s qualifying session will start on the pole for the second duel, followed by 4th, 6th, and 8th, down the line. The first duel consists of the odd qualifying positions for chartered drivers while the second duel consists of the even positions.

The open cars are similarly split. The fastest of the open cars (who already qualified in on speed) will be in the first duel. The second fastest open car (who likewise qualified in on speed) will be in the second. Essentially, if there are 5 open cars, 3 will be in the first duel while 2 will be in the second. Highest finishing open car in each duel other than the two who made it in on speed, will qualify for the Daytona 500. So, in the case of the current entry list with 5 open cars running for 4 spots, the worst finishing open car in the first duel will be the only car heading home when the checkered flag waves. Unless more open cars are added to the entry list, both open cars slated to start in the second duel should be safe.

Conclusion

The qualifying process for the Daytona 500 is always a complicated one. So, to summarize: the 36 chartered cars are already guaranteed spots in the field. Of the 5 (for now) open cars, the two fastest in time trials make it in on speed. For the other cars, the highest finisher in their respective duel makes the race, leaving the 1 remaining on the outside heading to the house.

We hope this breakdown makes sense for you. What is your greatest NASCAR Duel memory? Of the open drivers for 2024, who do you think will make it into the Great American Race? Let us know! Between now and then, keep it right here at DailyDownforce.com for all the latest news stories and discussions leading up to the 2024 NASCAR season!

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