Daytona 500 Qualifying: 10 Driver Storylines To Watch
Daytona 500 Qualifying is less than one week away. The biggest and most prestigious race of the NASCAR season will take place on Feb. 18th. Fans all over the world are eagerly awaiting the start of this exciting race. Here are 10 driver storylines to watch in the qualifying rounds:
1) Kyle Larson: He’s a former Daytona 500 champion and gets homesick when he’s not racing at the 500. Larson grabs pole position with an amazing run in qualifying last year, so his fans are going to be watching very carefully to see if he can do it again this year.
2) Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has had a rough go of things lately. He was suspended for two races for violating Race Control instructions and then crashed out of the Daytona 500 on Lap 187, ending his chances of ever winning that race. But Hamlin is still a very talented driver, and no one knows that better than himself; he’s come back stronger than ever before in qualifying rounds.
3) Ryan Blaney: Racing for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), Blaney is considered one of the up-and-coming drivers in NASCAR. However, he has yet to win a major race, something that his fans would love to see him achieve at Daytona.
4) Tyler Reddick: Reddick is another talented driver who has yet to win a major race. In fact, up until now, all his wins have come in lower-tier tracks like Daytona and Talladega. But don’t count him out; he definitely has what it takes to become a winner at this daunting track.
5) Paul Menard: Menard has been competing in NASCAR since 2002 and has never won a major race – until now! After finishing second at Bristol Motor Speedway last weekend, Menard looks set to make history by becoming the first Indiana native to win a Daytona 500 qualifier.
How will the qualifying draw play out?
The Daytona 500 qualifying draw is set for 11 a.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 18 on FOX Sports 1. This year’s field of 43 cars will be seeded based on their finish in the 2023 Daytona 500.
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The top 30 finishers in the NASCAR Cup Series regular season standings as of 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb 12 will qualify automatically, while the remaining ten spots will be filled by the three lowest finishers in points (25th, 26th and 27th) after both tests at Watkins Glen International and Auto Club Speedway.
Here are five storylines to watch during qualifying:
- Will Kyle Busch make it four straight pole positions?
Busch has been one of NASCAR’s most consistent performers over the past few seasons and he looks poised to continue that run this season. He’s looking to become just the fourth driver ever to win four poles in a row and would become only the second driver ever to do so in consecutive seasons (Joey Logano accomplished the feat in 2016 and 2023). Busch is also hoping to break Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s record for most poles in a career (seven).
- Can someone beat Jimmie Johnson’s Daytona 500 record?
Johnson currently holds the record for most points scored at Daytona (1,018), but might not be able to hold onto his spot at the front of the field if another driver can challenge him during qualifying. If somebody can
The Drivers To Watch NASCAR Cup Series 2023
- Ryan Blaney – The favorite to win the Daytona 500, Blaney has been one of the most consistent drivers in NASCAR this season. He has three top-five finishes in nine races and should be a tough out on Saturday afternoon.
- Brad Keselowski – Keselowski is coming off a solid victory at Sonoma and enters Daytona with momentum behind him. He is usually one of the quickest cars on track and could challenging for victory lane on Sunday.
- Kyle Busch – Busch has been one of the most consistent drivers this season and should be positioned well to take home his fifth Daytona 500 championship. He is coming off consecutive victories at Richmond and Talladega, so he is primed for another strong performance this weekend.
- Martin Truex Jr. – Truex has had some trouble in recent races but showed promise during qualifying by posting the third-fastest time overall. He will need to show his speed once race day arrives if he wants a chance at victory lane.
- Clint Bowyer – Bowyer is coming off a disappointing finish at Charlotte where he was forced to retire from the race early due to an engine issue. If he can put things together for both the 500-mile race AND Daytona’s short sprint format, he could be a contender for victory lane come Sunday evening.
- Denny Hamlin– Hamlin heads into Daytona having failed to win in his last four attempts.
Who is doing well in qualifying so far?
- Patrick Carpentier – The 2004 Formula Renault 2000 champion is making a strong return to Daytona Prototype competition, looking to rebound from a disappointing debut season in the Verizon IndyCar Series last year.
- Johannes van Overbeek – The Dutchman finished second in the championship standings and led most of laps in the month of February en route to qualifying fifth fastest overall.
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- Cameron Lawrence – The 2016 IMSA GTLM champion leads FP1 after setting pole position, his third at Daytona this decade and sixth overall.
- Jorg Bergmeister – One-time world champion finished 11th in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings last year but has found success at Daytona, qualifying second fastest overall behind Lawrence.
- Robin Liddell – The 2012 and 2013 FIA World Endurance Champion contender qualified eighth fastest and will be looking to bounce back from an unimpressive 2023 campaign so far in the prototype class.
Can any of these drivers overcome poor performances in practice?
- Michael Shank Racing driver Max Chilton has had a dismal qualifying campaign so far this season, with only two top-10 finishes in the six races he’s competed in. However, his team believes that they have a strategy that can give him a better chance at victory tomorrow.
- The No. 6 Team Penske car of Helio Castroneves has been struggling recently, with both of his career-best finishes coming last season. However, the Colombian is confident that their new setup should be good enough to be competitive tomorrow.
- Ryan Blaney has had some inconsistency this year, but enters tomorrow’s race as the favorite due to his speed and previous success at Daytona International Speedway.
- Graham Rahal has had an up-and-down season thus far, but is still one of the most experienced drivers on the grid and should have a good chance at victory tomorrow if he can stay out of trouble.
Can anyone make a serious run at the race?
Driver storylines to watch as the Daytona qualifying gets started on Saturday morning are as follows:
- Will Carl Edwards make it two consecutive Daytona 500s? Edwards has had some consistency troubles in recent races but he has the speed to take the lead early and potentially hold on for a top spot.
- Can Ryan Newman or Joey Logano figure out how to get better starts? They have one of the best cars on track, but too often they fall victim to poor starts that put them at a disadvantage from the beginning of each race.
- Who will be able to hold off Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Junior is coming off one of his worst performances of the season and many believe that this might be his last chance at winning a Daytona 500.
Which driver has the best chance of starting from the front row?
There are a few driver storylines to watch in the Daytona Qualifying Tournament. In the Race to Green, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman will be looking to make it three wins in a row. Newman has been dominant all weekend, setting the fastest lap on every single track.
The Championship 4 is also interesting, with Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch in tight competition for the final spot in the playoffs. If they can both finish in the top five, it would give them a significant boost toward winning their respective divisions. Elsewhere, Kyle Busch hopes to build off of his victory at Atlanta and Casey Mears is gunning for his first top-10 finish since 2009…
Which teams have the best chance of winning the race 2023?
The Rolex 24 At Daytona is one of the premier sports car races in the world. With many top-tier teams and drivers present, it’s a race that will be remembered for a long time. Here are four driver storylines to watch in qualifying:
- Will JR Hildebrand be able to get his No. 86 Porsche 911 RSR up to speed? The Belgian has had some trouble with reliability recently and he’ll need a good qualifying performance if he wants to avoid starting from the back-row behind the faster cars.
- Can Kévin Estre win his second Rolex 24 At Daytona? The Frenchman has been racking up podium finishes over the past few years, and he should be looking to add victory to his resumé this year.
- What kind of results can Johannes van Overbeek achieve in his first Daytona 24 At Daytona? The Dutchman is coming off a successful F1 season finale that ended with a third place finish at Abu Dhabi, so he’s no stranger to high-pressure racing situations.
- Can any other drivers put on an impressive showing and make it into the Top 6? There are plenty of talented racers in attendance, so anything could happen over the course of three hours on Saturday afternoon (ET).