Daytona 500 qualifying revamped

NASCAR officials announced Thursday new qualifying procedures to set the forty-three car field for the season opening Daytona 500. Per the NASCAR press release, the new format is as follows: - The odd-number positions (1st, 3rd, 5th, etc.) of...

NASCAR officials announced Thursday new qualifying procedures to set the forty-three car field for the season opening Daytona 500.

Per the NASCAR press release, the new format is as follows:

- The odd-number positions (1st, 3rd, 5th, etc.) of the highest-ranked 35 finishers in the final 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series car owner points standings

- The pole winner from Bud Pole Qualifying scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 13. Should the pole winner be among the highest-ranked 35 in the 2004 owner points, the pole winner will start in the first race regardless of his odd or even position in those standings

- The even-number positions (2nd, 4th, 6th, etc.) of the highest-ranked 35 finishers in the final 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series car owner points standings

- The second-fastest qualifier from Bud Pole Qualifying. Should this car be among the highest-ranked 35 in the 2004 owner points, it will start in the second race regardless of its odd or even position in those standings

Additional cars that were not among the highest-ranked 35 in the final 2004 car owner points will be alternated between the first and second 150-mile qualifying events using an odd-even format. The odd-number positions will be assigned to the first qualifier while the even-number positions will be assigned to the second qualifier.

The odd-even positions are not determined by where the car qualified in the overall field, but their specific qualifying order among those cars not part of the highest-ranked 35 group. For example, a car qualifies eighth overall in Bud Pole qualifying, but ranks third-fastest among those cars not part of the highest-ranked 35. That car would be an odd-number position and start in the first race as a result of its qualifying standing of those cars not in the highest-ranked 35.

The lineup for each qualifying race will be set based upon the qualifying speeds in the time trials for all cars, including those who are among the highest-ranked 35 in the final 2004 car owner point standings. The highest- ranked 35 designation does not determine the car's starting position, only the assignment of its 150-mile qualifying event.

A maximum of 66 cars will be permitted to compete between the two qualifying races, and all cars must compete in one of these events to be eligible for the Daytona 500.

Starting positions for the Daytona 500 will be designated for the highest- ranked 35 positions from the final 2004 car owner point standings from each qualifier, the two-highest finishing cars in each qualifier not among that highest-ranked 35 group and the two front-row qualifiers.

The balance of the 43-car field will be filled by the fastest remaining qualifiers who have not earned a starting position, with the exception of the 43rd position which will be assigned to an eligible former or current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion. Should there not be an eligible champion; the position will be assigned to the next fastest qualifier not in the field.

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