New qualifying for Daytona

NASCAR has unveiled changes to the Daytona 500 qualifying format. The changes were made to incorporate NASCAR's new top-35 requirement, which stipulates that the top 35 car owners in last year's Nextel Cup are guaranteed a slot on the grid at each round, into the event's traditional heat qualifying races

New qualifying for Daytona

In the past, the front row was secured via standard qaulifying, as were the line-ups for the qualifying heats, known as the Twins. Those first, third and fifth, etc., in time trials would be ranked in that order in the first Twin, and those second, fourth and sixth, etc., would make up the field for the second.

Now the first Twin will include teams in the odd-numbered positions in the prior year's points standings (1-3-5, etc.), and the second will pit those in the even-numbered spots (2-4-6, etc.) against each other.

Qualifying will still matter however - with the grids for the two heats being decided by time-trials. At the end of the Twins (Feb. 17), the top-35 guarantee remains pre-eminent.

If a team is in the top 35 in 2004 points, it is guaranteed a starting position in the Daytona 500, whether it wins in its Twin or crashes out on the first lap. Teams out of the top 35 will be ranked in the 43-car Daytona 500 grid depending on their finishes in the Twins.

Even here there is a quirk. NASCAR will accept the top-two Twin finishers, then fill the field with the non-survivors with the fastest time-trial speeds. Position 43 is reserved for a non-qualifying former champion. If the ex-champ doesn't need that spot, it goes to another non-top-35 qualifier.

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