How to Make the Daytona 500

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Thursday night’s Budweiser Duel will set the Daytona 500 starting lineup. (Photo: Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The qualifying procedure to set the Daytona 500 starting lineup is one of NASCAR’s most unique traditions.

The front row for the 56th running of the Daytona 500 was locked in during last Sunday’s qualifying session with pole sitter Austin Dillon and second fast Martin Truex Jr.

Positions 3-32 will be decided by the finishing order of Thursday night’s Budweiser Duel 150-mile races. Drivers who qualified in odd positions during time trials will compete in the night’s first event with even numbered qualifiers making up the field in race number two.

Finishing inside the first 15 in either race will earn drivers a spot in the '500' but the 16th-place finisher can also get in providing either front row starter Dillon or Truex Jr. finishes in the top 15.

From there spots 33 through 36 go to the next four fastest drivers not locked into the race who were highest in qualifying.

Positions 37 through 42 then go to the highest drivers in last season’s owner’s point standings not already in the race.

Finally, the 43rd starting spot goes to a former Sprint Cup Series champion not already in the race. If there isn’t a former champ that fits that criteria then the next highest in the previous year’s owner’s standing rounds of the field.

Michael McDowell, Cole Whitt and Morgan Shepherd will need to race their way into the race as a top-15 finisher in their Duel races because all three are so low in both qualifying speeds and owner points.

There are others who are racing a dangerous thread sitting just outside the top 30 in last year’s owners point standings who can’t afford a bad night in the Duel and that includes AJ Allmendinger, Parker Kligerman, Alex Bowman, Reed Sorenson, Joe Nemechek and Josh Wise in race one and 2011 Daytona 500 champ Trevor Bayne, Ryan Truex, Terry Labonte and Eric McClure in race number two.

As has been the tradition at Speedweeks throughout the years it will be a fascinating race to simply get into the starting line-up for the 56th running of “The Great American Race.”

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