Gatorade 125s: How the races work

The Gatorade 125-mile twin qualifying races for the Daytona 500 take place today (Thursday), with many driver's hopes of running in NASCAR's most prestigious dependent on a strong showing. We'll have full coverage of both races on autosport.com later today

Gatorade 125s: How the races work

Several leading Winston Cup drivers will be reliant on a strong showing in the races to gain a good grid position for the Daytona 500 itself. Amongst the drivers who struggled in qualifying were four-time champion Jeff Gordon, who set the 29th fastest time, and reigning title holder Tony Stewart, who failed to set a time in qualifying after engine failure.

The unique qualifying procedures for the Daytona 500 means that the only way that many drivers can get into the main race is by finishing amongst the top 14 in one of the 125-mile races. This makes the battle to get past the 'bubble' and into the qualifying positions even more intense than usual.

"If you're by the bubble position, that's the worst place to be," said Kurt Busch, who is guaranteed to start this year's race because he finished third in last year's championship. "If you get towards the front and you work your way into third or fourth, you don't really have many worries. But if you're around that bubble position, where people aren't in the show yet and the draft is still tight, it's gonna be a mad dash to the start-finish line on that last lap."
The two drivers who set the fastest laps in Monday's qualifying session, Jeff Green and Dale Earnhardt Jr, are guaranteed to start at the front of the Daytona 500 grid.

The top 14 finishers from the first Gatorade 125-mile qualifying race, other than Green, will start from the odd-numbered spots on rows 2 through 15 on the 500 grid. The top 14 finishers from the second race, other than Earnhardt Jr, will start from the even-numbered grid positions on those rows.

Drivers with the fastest speeds from Monday's qualifying, who didn't gain a grid position from one of the Gatorade 125s, fill positions 31 to 36 on the 500 grid.

The final grid positions for the 500 (37-43) are provisional spots, and are granted to the teams highest in the 2002 car owner points standings that have not otherwise qualified.

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