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The Dilemma of Daytona Qualifying
By Jan Bazen
So you made it through your rookie season of NASCAR and thought you have the rules down . . . right? That is what I thought until my editor asked me to write an article explaining how the drivers qualify for the Daytona 500. "You want me to write an article about drivers taking two laps, posting their best speed and finding out where they will start in the Daytona 500?", I asked him. "Research it," he said. So I did.
If you think that running two laps around the track is all they do to qualify for the Daytona 500, well, think again. You thought Silly Season was confusing? You ain't seen nothing yet! Get a pencil with a large eraser, better yet . . . go buy one of those huge erasers and get ready to start drawing diagrams, cause we are going back to NASCAR newbie school.
On Friday, February 8, 2002 a drawing will be held to determine what order the drivers line up for the qualifying rounds. On Saturday each driver runs two laps to set their best qualifying time and the two fastest drivers get the pole and second position for the Daytona 500. Got it so far? Hold on, cause this is where is becomes confusing.
The next step is to determine the line up for the Gatorade Twin 125's; it is not a Busch race which is what I assumed (and you know what they say about assuming), but actually two qualifying races for the final lineup of the Daytona 500. The drivers can stand on their speeds from Saturday's qualifying runs or they can run two more laps on Monday, February 11 to improve their speed. If the driver decides to improve on their laps, then the first times from Saturday are completely discarded as if they were never set.
Okay, from the final qualifying standings the line up is complete for the Gatorade Twin 125's. Odd numbers run in the first 125-mile race and the even numbers run in the second 125-mile race . . . thus the name Gatorade Twin 125's. The events will be held on Thursday, February 14 with the first race beginning at 1 PM, and the second race right after the first and will be shown on TNT. Each race is 50 laps.
The results from these two races determine the line up for positions' 31-36. But aren't there 43 positions for the Daytona 500 you say? So where do these drivers come from? Positions 37-42 are reserved for drivers who didn't qualify in the previous rounds and are assigned based on car owner points from the end of the 2001 Winston Cup season.
Position 43 is reserved for a past Winston Cup Champion driver who does not qualify any other way. If there is no such driver then the position is given to the next driver in line based on car owner points, the same as positions 37-42.
Got it now? Do you have any pencil lead or eraser remaining? Me either . . . next time I think I'll just stick to Silly Season. Of course, the Daytona 500 will be held on February 17 at 12:30 P.M. and shown on NBC . . . but then, you already knew that much, right?
Jan is an RN who lives on the North Carolina coast with her husband, three children and her dog. When not watching or reading about Nascar, she enjoys fishing...any kind of fishing. She enjoys gardening and reading. Although Jan is new to the sport of Nascar, she was exposed to Nascar from the early, tender age of 5 by her older brother, Fred, who has always been a diehard Nascar fan. Jan welcomes any comments or opposing views. You can contact her by clicking on the North Carolina tag above.
2002 Car Guy of Benchfield