Make no mistake about it, the Daytona 500 awards the same amount of points as any of the other races that makes up the 36-race NASCAR Cup Series schedule but that may be the only thing in common with the rest of the schedule.
The uniqueness of the 500 was on display Sunday with qualifying that only guaranteed the two front row spots and two spots for the teams that were attempting to qualify without a charter.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who was let go by Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the 2019 season made the most out of his move to JGT Daugherty Racing by putting his Chevrolet Camaro on the pole with a speed of 194.582 mph.
Joining him on the outside of row one will be Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman who posted a speed of 194.363 mph. Stenhouse Jr’s Camaro was powered by a Hendrick Motorsports engine and was followed by three HMS drives in the finishing order.
Right behind Bowman in second was teammates Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson.
Elliott and Johnson did not lock a starting spot down for the 500 but will enter this Sunday’s race knowing that they have the speed to not only run up front but to captured the most coveted checkered flag on the entire schedule.
Stenhouse Jr. and Bowman now have the luxury of knowing where they with start on Sunday but even though 34 other drivers know that they are guaranteed a starting spot because they are with charter teams, they now have to race for their starting spot.
This will take place on Thursday with the running of the Duel races. Justin Haley and Brendan Gaughan who do not drive for charter teams secured spots in the starting field for Sunday as they posted the two fastest speeds of the non-chartered teams.
Those two bring the field with guaranteed spots to 38 which only leaves two spots remaining for the non-chartered teams which now must drive their way into the field with their finish in the Duel races.
The lineups for the Duels is set by where a driver finished in qualifying on Sunday.
Stenhouse Jr. will set on the pole for the first Duel and will be joined by the odd-numbered finishing drivers from Sunday.
Bowman leads the field in the second Duel and he will be joined by the even-numbered finishing drivers.
Both races will be 60 laps/150 miles in length and finishing order from both will be used to fill the starting grid.
That is a lot of racing for a week but that is just part of what will take place this week at Daytona International Speedway as both the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and the Xfinity Series will kick off their seasons.
The trucks will get their season underway under the lights on Friday night with the running of the NextEra Energy 250.
The Xfinity Series will begin its season on Saturday afternoon with the NASCAR Racing Experience 300.
PIT NOTES: Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing announced at Daytona that the driver has signed a two-year extension that will keep him in SHR Fords through the 2023 season.
Harvick is expected to make a smooth transition to the broadcast booth once his driving days are over as he has already been heavily involved with that side of the sport but that now has been put on hold.
The 44-year-old driver’s contract was set to end after the 2021 season but he will now have the time to not only begin competing in the long awaited arrival of NASCAR’s newest generation of race car but also have a hand in fine tuning it.