Here are the guarantees for Sunday’s Daytona 500: Danica Patrick starting position will be No. 1 and Jeff Gordon starting position will be No. 2. That’s it.
A few other drivers, thanks to either their results in Sunday’s Coors Light Pole qualifying or 2012 owner points – or, in the case of Kurt Busch, his 2004 championship – know they’re in the show. They just don’t know where they’ll start. Yet.
That’s where Thursday’s Duel at Daytona comes in.
The top 15 finishers in each Duel – not including Patrick or Gordon – will fill spots 3-32 in the starting lineup. The top 15 from the first Duel will make up the inside row; the top 15 from the second Duel will fill the outside row.
Spots 33-36 will go to those drivers not already locked-in who earned the top four speeds during Sunday’s Coors Light Pole qualifying.
Spots 37-42 will go to the top six cars in 2012 owner points that are not already locked in. The 43rd position goes to the most recent past champion. If there is no eligible past champion, it reverts back to 2012 owner points.
For Mike Bliss and Brian Keselowski, the Duel at Daytona is vital. Because of their owner points and qualifying results (speeds were 44th and 45th, respectively), the only way they can make the Daytona 500 is via their Duel races. Keselowski is in the first Duel; Bliss is in the second.
Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth won last year’s two Duel races.