With the Gatorade Duel at Daytona just three days away, the “Who’s In” and “Who’s Out” lists are beginning to come together for the 54th Annual Daytona 500.
|Carl Edwards is IN!|
While 39 of the 43 starting spots in the “Great American Race” have already been awarded, precisely where most of those 39 drivers will start remains to be determined. Here’s what we know about next Sunday’s starting field so far, and how we know it…
Carl Edwards will start the Daytona 500 from the pole position, after topping time trials yesterday with a lap at 194.738 mph; the fastest qualifying lap at Daytona International Speedway in more than a decade. His Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Greg Biffle, will roll from the outside of the front row Sunday, after posting the second-fastest time in yesterday’s qualifying session. Both Edwards and Biffle will take part in Thursday’s Gatorade Duel at Daytona, but only as a paid practice session. Their front-row starting spots are secure -- regardless of finish in the Gatorade Duel – unless they crash and are forced to go to a backup car.
|Dave Blaney: NOT IN!|
Thirty five teams – Edwards and Biffle among them -- arrived in Daytona Beach with guaranteed starting spots in hand, after finishing among the Top-35 in 2011 Owner’s Points, or acquiring a spot from a Top-35 team during the offseason. Those teams are locked into the Daytona 500, and their specific starting spots will be determined in Thursday’s Gatorade Duel.
A total of 10 drivers find themselves on the dreaded “Go Or Go Home” list for Thursday’s qualifying races. Defending Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne, Tony Raines, David Stremme Kenny Wallace, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek, Michael McDowell, Robert Richardson, Robby Gordon and JJ Yeley will attempt to race their way into the Daytona 500 in the Gatorade Duel.
|David Stremme has insurance|
If Bayne, Raines and Stremme fail to race their way in, they have an insurance policy by virtue of being the fastest time-trialers not already in possession of a guaranteed, Top-35 starting spot. If Bayne, Raines and/or Stremme manage to race their way into the Daytona 500 Thursday, the next three drivers in line to make the race on speed are Kenny Wallace, Blaney and Michael Waltrip.
Terry Labonte will be a part of Sunday’s Daytona 500; one way or another. He can race his way into the race through Thursday’s first Gatorade Duel, or claim the Past Champion’s Provisional if he fails to do so. If Labonte races his way in Thursday, Bill Elliott will claim the Past Champion’s Provisional.