Thursday's Gatorade Duels at Daytona will be televised on SPEED starting at 2 p.m. The two 150 mile races will determine most of the starting field for Sunday's Daytona 500. So, hopefully, we can simplify somewhat what these two races mean.
First, the top two qualifiers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon are in the 500 and guaranteed to start first and second, unless they have to change engines and go to the back of the pack.
Second, the top 35 drivers whose owners finished in the top 35 in owners points last year are guaranteed spots in the Daytona 500. Which spots they get will be determined in these races.
OK, that leaves eight spots up for grabs.
Then, the top two drivers in each of the races not among those 35 guaranteed spots, will make the race.
That gives us 39, so four to go now.
After that, the next three spots are determined on qualifying times from last Sunday. So, if a driver wasn't in the top 35 last year, and has a bad race Thursday, if he qualified fast Sunday, he will make it in.
The 43rd spot will be filled by one of two ways: First, it would go to the driver who is the most recent Sprint Cup champion if he does not make the race in any other fashion. If there are no former champions who need this provision, then it goes to the next fastest qualifier.
So there we have it, 43 drivers.
Hopefully this clears things up at least a little.
And one final note, in case you're wondering how the starting places for the Daytona 500 are determined. The eligible finishers from Thursday's first race will lineup on the inside row Sunday, and the eligible finishers from Thursday's second race will start on the outside row.
So there you have it.
Hopefully, we'll get a good preview of what is to come Sunday.