Daytona 500 Rules: Distance, Surface, Qualification, Laps & Turns of NASCAR’s Season-Opener

Published 02/12/2024, 5:59 AM EST

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Following the quarter-mile exhibition race at the Coliseum, NASCAR’s biggest spectacle – the Daytona 500 – is on the horizon. Following the industry backlash against the Clash and the organization’s execution of it, the hype around the “Great American Race” is through the roof. Drivers like Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr, and Kyle Busch are eyeing a decisive one to get a W in the bags while NASCAR’s villain Denny Hamlin looks to make it his fourth Daytona 500 triumph.

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With the fandom all in on the action, anticipating a high-speed thriller at Daytona, let us dive a little deeper into the details of the same, including the qualification procedure, laps, the track surface, and the track whereabouts in full detail.

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For the unversed, Daytona might be a souped-up version of a speedway race. But there is more than what meets the eye. The 40-driver field will take on the tri-oval, battling it out for the gold and possibly a playoff berth by catching the wind early in their sails. The race will essentially be a 200-lap feature with drivers going pedal to the metal at mind-bending speeds, running three, or four wide to get ahead and claim the W. Despite the persistent criticism of the race, being bland with cars just running around in circles, the high-speed race is one of the most technical races on the planet.

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Each turn has a significant role in the race, and as the race goes on, drivers must adapt to the 31-degree banked turns, along with the 3-degree banked straightaways and improvise to the changing conditions to stay ahead of the rest for the whole 500-mile fixture. To add ammunition to the excitement factor, the last six out of the seven Daytona 500 have gone into overtime.

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Qualification Process for Daytona 500

Before the Daytona 500, is qualifying on Wednesday and the Duel races that set the grid behind the front row on the next day, Thursday, leading up to Sunday’s main event. Unlike regular Cup races, the Daytona 500 distinguishes itself, unfolding with a unique format spanning multiple days of on-track action to establish the starting lineup.

The process kicks off on Wednesday, Feb. 14, with single-car qualifying, where the order will be determined through a random draw conducted by NASCAR.

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During this session, one driver will claim the pole position, securing a spot on the front row. Additionally, one more non-chartered car from each qualifying group will earn a position in the Daytona 500 based on their qualifying speed.

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The qualifying drama continues on Thursday, Feb. 15, with the Bluegreen Vacation Duel races.

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Above all, the field will be divided into two groups mainly for these 60-lap races, each of which will determine the remainder of the Daytona 500 starting lineup.

In each Duel race, one non-chartered car will secure its place in the Daytona 500, adding an extra layer of competition and excitement to the fixture.

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The DAYTONA 500 will be at 2:30 PM ET on Sunday, February 18th. NASCAR’s broadcast partner for the race will be FOX with radio coverage from MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

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Written by:

Kishore R

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One take at a time

Kishore is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. He actively covers live events and does detailed race analyses, helping fans understand the very nitty gritties of the sport. Using the right mix of storytelling and game expertise, Kishore can take his readers on a journey to see how a particular race was for some of their most loved drivers, like Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott.
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Edited by:

Rohan Karnad

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