New format places premium on speed and top-15 finish in Duels
Without the top-35 rule, the first race of the season, the Daytona 500, might be missing some of the sport’s biggest stars.
The new starting lineup will be made up of the fastest 36 cars and the top six in owner points that didn’t qualify on speed, and the final position will be saved for a past champion, as long as they raced the previous season. If that spot isn't used by a former champ, it will go to the seventh racer in owner points.
So what does this mean for the Daytona 500?
VIDEO: John Darby explains Daytona 500 qualifying.
As long as you finish first and second on qualifying day and in the top 15 in your Duel, you’re locked in. But after that, positions 33-36 transfer in from being fastest in qualifying (if they aren’t already locked in) and 37-42 go to the top six in owner points. Forty-third will be a past champion or another based on owner points.
Drivers like Matt Kenseth (18th), Joey Logano (21st), Kyle Busch (13th) and Carl Edwards (16th) need to be careful. Kenseth is the defending Daytona 500 winner, and Edwards and Busch know their way around Daytona. But first they have to make it in.