Parks Pit Report: Daytona Speedweeks 3/4-Budweiser Duels

Kevin Harvick continued his momentum from Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited, winning the first Budweiser Duel on Thursday.

After only recording one win all season in 2012, Kyle Busch would win the second Budweiser Duel to give himself the fourth starting spot in Sunday’s race.

Considering how the Daytona 500 qualifying procedures are different from any race of the season, minus the two exhibition races of the Sprint Unlimited and the All-Star Race, I figured it would be best to give readers a heads-up on how NASCAR changed qualifying procedures from 2012 to 2013, both for this race and as the year goes on.

The biggest change this year is that the “Top-35 rule” is no longer valid.  For the past few seasons, NASCAR enacted this rule meaning the top-35 cars in owner’s points each week were in essence guaranteed a starting spot.  The final eight positions would be determined by drivers that had to “go or go home” and make the race on speed.

This was met with criticism in that the best drivers in essence got a free ride into the race, even if they had no speed in the car.  Now, no matter where a driver is positioned in points, they need to race their way into the field.  This means that the top-36 in the field will be determined by speed, and speed alone.  The final seven positions in the race would then revert to owner’s points based on that week, which will include provisional positions and also a past-champion’s provisional if need be.

The second change this year is that unlike 2012, the qualifying order once again goes back to a random draw.  Last year, the first practice session would determine how drivers would go out for qualifying, slowest-to-fastest.  Now, the draw returns to maybe make the fastest car prove it can be just as fast going early or midway in the order, rather than wait till the end.

But, what is retained in all this is the rain-out procedure.  The first practice session will still determine the field should qualifying get rained out.  If the first practice doesn’t occur as scheduled, then owner’s points would be used, and include the provisional starters.

Now, for the Daytona 500, it is a little different.  Keep in mind, Sunday’s qualifying was only to determine the front row for the race, so Danica Patrick and Jeff Gordon had their spots locked up.  Should something happen now, such as an engine change, transmission change, or having to revert to a backup car, even missing the drivers’ meeting, they would have to go to the back of the field.  Now, this is where the Budweiser Duels come in.

The two qualifying races are used to determine the next 15 rows in the field.  The first Duel is used to set the inside row, with the second setting the outside row.  Should the front-row starters finish anywhere in the top-15 of their respective race, NASCAR uses the top-16 to set the grid.  After that, the next four spots revert back to the qualifying chart from Sunday’s time trials, with the four fastest not finishing in the top-15 in each duel getting those respective spots.

With those 36 spots filled, the final seven positions are based on provisionals, using owner points and if necessary a past-champion’s provisional.

Although all this seems a bit technical, NASCAR only uses the duel races for this event, truly making drivers earn the chance to race in NASCAR’s “Super Bowl” and earn a moment of immortality.  But now, no more qualifying, no more duels.  Just a few practice sessions and then Sunday afternoon, with a sold-out crowd on hand, the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season will begin with the newest installment of the “Great American Race.”

FOX once again has duties for this event, beginning at Noon ET and the green waving one hour later.

STARTING LINE-UP:  2013 Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET on FOX)
[Row. Inside; Outside]
Driver (Car #) Sponsor & Make, Speed/Provisional

  1. Danica Patrick (10) Chevrolet SS, 196.434 MPH; Jeff Gordon (24) Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS, 196.292 MPH
  2. Kevin Harvick (29) Budweiser Chevrolet SS; Kyle Busch (18) M&M’s Toyota Camry
  3. Greg Biffle (16) 3M Ford Fusion; Kasey Kahne (5) Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS
  4. Juan Pablo Montoya (42) Target Chevrolet SS; Austin Dillon (33) Honeynut Cheerios Chevrolet SS
  5. Jimmie Johnson (48) Lowe’s Chevrolet SS; Clint Bowyer (15) 5-Hour Energy Toyota Camry
  6. Kurt Busch (78) Furniture Row Chevrolet SS; Matt Kenseth (20) Dollar General Toyota Camry
  7. Tony Stewart (14) Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS; Mark Martin (55) Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry
  8. Brad Keselowski (2) Miller Lite Ford Fusion; Paul Menard (27) Menards/Peak Chevrolet SS
  9. Casey Mears (13) GEICO Ford Fusion; Jeff Burton (31) Caterpillar Chevrolet SS
  10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) National Guard Chevrolet SS; Jamie McMurray (1) McDonald’s Chevrolet SS
  11. Joey Logano (22) Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion; David Ragan (34) Detail Doctor Ford Fusion
  12. Bobby Labonte (47) Kroger Toyota Camry; Marcos Ambrose (9) Stanley Ford Fusion
  13. David Gilliland (38) Love’s Travel Stops Ford Fusion; Aric Almirola (43) Smithfield Ford Fusion
  14. Joe Nemachek (87) Constructors Toyota Camry; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17) Best Buy Ford Fusion
  15. Michael Waltrip (26) Sandy Hook School Support Fund Toyota Camry; Dave Blaney (7) Florida Lottery Chevrolet SS
  16. Scott Speed (95) Levine Family Racing Ford Fusion; Josh Wise (35) MDS Transport Ford Fusion
  17. Trevor Bayne (21) Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire and Auto Care Ford Fusion, 195.976 MPH; Ryan Newman (39) Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, 195.946 MPH
  18. Denny Hamlin (11) FedEx Express Toyota Camry, 195.771 MPH; Carl Edwards (99) Fastenal Ford Fusion, 195.240 MPH
  19. Martin Truex Jr. (56) NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Provisional; Michael McDowell (98) K-Love/Curb Records Ford Fusion, Provisional
  20. Terry Labonte (32) C&J Energy Services Ford Fusion, Provisional; Regan Smith (51) Phoenix Construction Chevrolet SS, Provisional
  21. JJ Yeley (36) Golden Corral Chevrolet SS, Provisional; David Reutimann (83) Burger King Toyota Camry, Provisional
  22. Travis Kvapil (93) Burger King Toyota Camry, Provisional

DID NOT QUALIFY:  Mike Bliss, Brian Keselowski

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