Daytona 500 2012: What's Next In Qualifying? A Look At The Week Ahead

If you didn't spend every moment of Sunday on Twitter or watching FOX (perhaps you had a job or a family that required some attention), your head might be spinning a bit over Daytona 500 qualifying.

Who is in the field? Who is still on the outside? What's next?

Let's try to break it down:

• Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle took the top two spots for the Daytona 500 during Sunday's qualifying session, but those are the only two drivers who officially have a starting spot. In reality, though, any team which has top 35 owner points from last season – whether they earned them or obtained them – is also in the 500; they just don't know where they'll start yet.

• Aside from the front row, the other 41 starting positions are still up for grabs and will be determined during Thursday's Gatorade Duels, which are a pair of 150-mile qualifying races unique to Daytona. The starting lineup for every other race is determined by a standard time trials session.

• In addition to Edwards and Biffle, Sunday's qualifying did provide some celebration for some other drivers – but for different reasons. NASCAR sets aside three Daytona 500 spots for the fastest drivers in qualifying, so Trevor Bayne, Tony Raines and David Stremme – all who arrived at Daytona with no guarantee they'd be in the race – clinched a berth in the 500 thanks to their speeds.

• In addition, Terry Labonte will be in the race because he was the most recent past Cup champion without a guaranteed spot. NASCAR reserves one spot in every race for a driver such as Labonte, if needed.

• For those not in the field, there are two ways to make the Daytona 500 on Thursday. First, a driver such as Michael Waltrip could simply race his way into the big show by claiming one of the two transfer spots available in each Duel. Second, a driver like Kenny Wallace could rely on someone already with a timed spot – Bayne, Raines or Stremme – to finish in a transfer position and allow Wallace to move up.

• Bill Elliott is in a similar situation, though he could make the race if Labonte claims a transfer spot on Thursday.

• Aside from Waltrip, Wallace and Elliott, he other drivers on the outside looking in are: Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek, Michael McDowell, Mike Wallace, Robby Gordon, Robert Richardson Jr., and JJ Yeley.

To make it simple: There are 10 go-or-go-home drivers and only four more spots available for the Daytona 500. The Gatorade Duels will set the full lineup on Thursday afternoon (1 p.m. EST, SPEED).

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