NCS: Cup Series Qualifying tonight kicks off Daytona 500 weekend at Daytona International Speedway

Two of the most unique aspects of kicking off the season with the Daytona 500 is now only the fact we are the only sport to kick off our season with the biggest race of the year outside of the championship event is the qualifying setup which is much different than other weekends and that starts tonight with Cup Series Qualifying.

Tonight, 42 cars will attempt to qualify for Sunday’s Daytona 500 where 36 charters are already set with entries into the race, the six open cars of Jimmie Johnson, Kaz Grala, David Ragan, BJ McLeod, Anthony Alfredo and the No. 44 entry of NY Racing who was due to have Greg Biffle in the car but currently listed without a driver and so far and yet to withdraw from the event.

Of those six open cars two will lock in based on their qualifying speed providing neither win their Duel, the four remaining open cars will either race their way into the Daytona 500 or fall back as the next fastest in qualifying speed.

Following the qualifying tonight all 42 cars will be set up for tomorrow night’s Bluegreen Duel at Daytona in a pair of 60 laps, 150-mile events to race their way into the Daytona 500. The trick is being in place to win your event, staying close enough to the front and behind locked in cars all while trying to preserve your car and missing incidents that are bound to happen.

The duels will have 10 active drivers entered this weekend that have won previously, the last being Chris Buescher and teammate Brad Keselowski, both doing it back in 2022. Other drivers entered this weekend include Austin Dillon, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson, and Chase Elliott.

Three additional drivers have won three of their duels going back to 2008 when Denny Hamlin won his first, Kyle Busch in 2009 and Joey Logano in 2019.  

Going into tonight, Chevrolet or Hendrick Motorsports have locked up 10-plus years of pole qualifying including multiple years of also sitting on the outside pole. For the last three seasons it’s been a Hendrick car with Bowman or Larson taking the pole with Bowman on the verge of history should he secure his fourth Daytona 500 pole which would tie him with Bill Elliott, Cale Yarborough, and Buddy Baker.

Bowman not only has a chance of his fourth pole for the 500 he is going for his seventh consecutive start on the front row going back to 2018 a record he broke when he managed his fourth front row start breaking the tie and previous records held by Fireball Roberts, Richard Petty, Bill Elliott, Ken Schrader, and Dale Earnhardt.

Finally, Bowman also has the chance to etch his name in the record book for consecutive poles which has previously been accomplished by Fireball Roberts, Buddy Baker, Bill Elliott, Ken Schrader, and Chase Elliott.

You can catch Cup Series qualifying tonight starting at 8:00 p.m. ET on FS1 with tomorrow’s BlueGreen Vacation Duel starting at 7:00 p.m. ET on FS1 with the second duel starting approximately at 8:15 p.m. ET on FS1.