The top-35 qualifying rule, which allowed teams inside that cutoff to get a guaranteed a spot in each race based on owners points, was eliminated for the 2013 NASCAR season. That means Daytona 500 qualifying will revert back to the traditional format.
There are multiple layers of slotting for the 43 cars that will take part in the "The Great American Race," which will begin with qualifying and include the popular Budweiser Duels. Here's a breakdown as provided by series director John Darby and passed along by Bob Pockrass of the Sporting News.
The front row will get decided and locked after qualifying, which is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 17. The two fastest drivers in their initial runs will earn those spots regardless of where they finish during the Budweiser Duels.
These 30 slots are completely dependent on the duels. There are two races on Thursday afternoon of race week that will be broadcast on Speed, and the top 15 finishers in each that haven't already earned a spot (didn't come first or second in qualifying) get in.
This is where the elimination of the top-35 rule really comes into play. Since the luxury of being guaranteed a place in the race is gone, drivers will have to decide between racing for the win and simply making sure they earn a spot.
Owners points from last season will still come in to play lower in the order, so some drivers will have a little bit more freedom to push the pace, but the rule change should definitely make for more strategic moves during the Budweiser Duels.
The next four positions go to the drivers who posted the fastest qualifying times but didn't crack the top 15 in the duels. This serves as protection for cars that are clearly quick enough to be in the field, but suffered issues in the Thursday races.
Are you happy the top-35 rule is gone?
Here's where owner points finally come into play. Six positions are available based on last season's performance, which is a safety net in case a team has some serious issues during qualifying and the Budweiser Duels.
There's a major difference between six and 35 guaranteed spots. Obviously, no driver will want to rely on this provision to keep their Daytona dreams alive. Not just because the lack of positions, but the starting spots are also near the back of the pack.
Finally, the last spot is reserved for the most recent winner of the high-profile race who didn't get in through any of the previous steps. Should the clause not be needed, the next team on the 2012 owners points list will receive the spot instead.