The new qualifying procedure for this year's Daytona 500 is a little confusing to some people, and as you look at the corresponding speeds, there are some people who are in real good shape at making the Daytona 500 and some in real rough shape. There are some who are in the middle.
Obviously, Danica Patrick and Jeff Gordon locked themselves into the 55th Daytona 500 Sunday afternoon when both drivers qualified on the front row for the race. No matter what happens to both Patrick or Gordon between now and Sunday, both drivers will start from the front row for the 55th Running of the Daytona 500. Unless Patrick or Gordon go to backup cars,both drivers are good to go.
Positions 3-32 will be determined by the Budweiser Duel 150's on Thursday. Each driver needs to finish 15th or better in their Duel, and they will be locked into the Daytona 500.
Four other drivers locked themselves into the Daytona 500 on Sunday. The new rules have four positions (33-36) set for the four fastest qualifiers who are already not locked into the field. The four fastest qualifiers not already locked into the field as of now are Trevor Bayne, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne. Both Kahne and Stewart were already locked into the field for the Daytona 500 due to provisionals.
Positions 37-42 in the Daytona 500 field will be set by 2012 owner points. The top six drivers not already locked into the field will be able to use a provisional to get into the show. The 43rd and final position is for any past champion already not locked into the field. If there is no eligible past champion then the position would be a seventh provisional by owner points.
The top six drivers in owner points not already locked into the field as we currently sit are: Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse is using the points earned by Matt Kenseth and the #17 team from 2012. The most recent past champion not locked into the field would be Kurt Busch who won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in 2004.
That leaves 13 drivers locked into the field for Sunday's Daytona 500, leaving 30 positions open in the Budweiser Duels on Thursday. Two drivers will go home as 45 drivers entered the Daytona 500 for 43 available spots. If you put it all together, there are five drivers who are in deep trouble as far as making the Daytona 500 is concerned.
Brian Keselowski, Mike Bliss, Joe Nemechek, David Reutimann and J.J. Yeley all had really slow times and are really low in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner points from 2012. Keselowski's points were good enough for 57th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner points in 2012. Mike Bliss's team was 45th in owner points. Joe Nemechek's #87 team finished 41st in owner points in 2012 and David Reutimann's #83 team finished 32nd.
While there are teams who were lower in owner points than Reutimann, it seems highly unlikely that he will going through the motions on Sunday. His owner points puts him in an even weaker spot to be locked in for an appearance in the Daytona 500. David Reutimann's best shot at making the Daytona 500 will be to race his way in on Thursday by finishing in the top 15 in his Budweiser Duel race.
The same goes for Nemechek, Bliss and Keselowski. All three drivers qualified slow and were extremely low in owner points in 2012, making it almost impossible for them to make the field any other way beside racing their way in Thursday.
Bobby Labonte is one position ahead of David Reutimann, but his team finished 26th in owner points in the 2012 season; he is also the 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and has the advantage of using the past champions provisional.
Another driver to keep an eye on is J.J. Yeley. Yeley's team was 35th in owner points in 2012 and qualified 40th on Sunday. He is a guy that also has a chance at missing the Daytona 500. Everyone else from Yeley on up are able to use their speeds if they need to throughout the race.
The five drivers to really look out for come Thursday are: Brian Keselowski, Mike Bliss, Joe Nemechek, David Reutimann and J.J. Yeley. Those five drivers have the worst chance at making the Daytona 500.
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