The Daytona 500 will revert to a more traditional qualifying format now that the much-maligned top-35 rule has been dissolved in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
That means the fastest 36 cars from qualifying will make the race with the remaining seven spots being filled on owner points and a past champion provisional. This is a reversion to the qualifying format used before the 2005 season where NASCAR first started locking-in the top-35 teams into the field each week.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby confirmed the procedure during last week’s Daytona preseason test.
"The procedure will change from last year, with the elimination of the top-35 rule, which will put some jazz and smack back into the (qualifying) races," Darby said. "That’s because a majority of the competitors will be racing their way in."
The qualifying procedure for the Daytona 500 is as follows:
- The front row, positions 1-2, will go to the two fastest drivers during qualifying on Feb. 17.
- Positions 3-32 will be set by the finishing order in Budweiser Duel qualifying races on Feb. 21. Drivers who finish in the top 15 in their respective races earn spots in the Daytona 500 and the 16th-place driver gets in as long as one of the top-15 drivers already occupies one of the two front row spots.
- Positions 33-36 will go to the drivers who didn’t make it through the qualifying races but posted the fastest four speeds during qualifying.
- Positions 37-42 will be awarded as provisionals based off of 2012 owner points
- Position 43 will be a past champion’s provisional, going to the most recent past champion not already in the field. If there is no past champion, then the spot will be filled by the next driver eligible based on 2012 owner points.
For each of the events following the Daytona 500, the fastest 36 drivers in qualifying will make the race with the next six spots going to the top teams in the owner standings not already locked-in. The final spot will go to a past champion not already qualified. If no such champion is entered, the final spot will go to the next eligible driver in the owner standings.
The provisional format for the regular season will be based off the 2012 owner’s points for just the first three events – Daytona, Phoenix and Las Vegas – and will revert to the 2013 standings entering the fourth week of the season at Bristol Motor Speedway.
NASCAR officials expect no change to draft package before Speedweeks
NASCAR officials also announced that they are happy with what they learned during the test session, even with the multicar accident that occurred on Friday afternoon.
Single car speeds maxed out near 194 mph and draft speeds topped out at just under 200 mph, leading NASCAR to announce that no changes would be made to the restrictor plate size before the sport returns in February for Speedweeks.
The restrictor plate limits the amount of air that flows through the engine and limits horsepower and had four holes of 29/32nds of an inch for the test.
"We know the teams will come back and bring a little bit better this and better that," NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said. "We feel comfortable with that. The racetrack is coming to us a little bit, and speeds will fluctuate a lot—they’ll be better on new tires and it will drop off as it goes.
"We’re right in the ballpark. We don’t foresee any changes."Follow @MattWeaverSBN