DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Alex Bowman sits on the pole and Denny Hamlin joins him on the outside pole for the 60th annual running of the Daytona 500.
We know the front row – but the rest of Sunday’s starting grid has yet to be solidified.
That’s what Thursday evening’s two 60-lap, 150-mile Duels at Daytona International Speedway are for. The results will determine who will line up in the majority of spots on the starting grid for “The Great American Race.”
This year, three of the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers will race in the first Duel, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET.
Bowman will start on the pole, with Jimmie Johnson lining up second and William Byron third.
That starting order was set based on qualifying times – odd-numbered qualifiers typically participate in the first Duel, while the even-finishing drivers race in the second Duel.
With Bowman, Johnson and Byron qualifying first, third and fifth last weekend, they’ll be the first three drivers to take the green flag in the first Duel.
Chase Elliott, who qualified 10th, will roll off the grid fifth in the second Duel, which will begin shortly after the conclusion of the first Duel – approximately 8:30 or 9 p.m. ET.
The first Duel will set the inside row of the Daytona 500 starting grid, while the second Duel will determine the outside row. For example, the winner of the first Duel would start third in the Daytona 500 behind Bowman – unless Bowman himself wins, then the Duel’s second-place finisher would line up third.
Another facet of the Duels is that the top 10 finishers in each race will be awarded points, similar to stage finishes in the NASCAR Cup Series regular season.
First place will receive 10 points, second place will earn nine points, and that trend will continue all the way down to one point for the 10th-place finisher. That means two drivers – the winners of each Duel – will head into the Daytona 500 with a share of the points lead.
Fortunately for Hendrick Motorsports, the organization has won at least one Duel in each of the last three years, capturing four of the last six Duel races. That includes a sweep of both Duels in 2015, making Hendrick Motorsports one of only two organizations to sweep both qualifying races in a season.
Since 2006, Hendrick Motorsports leads all teams in wins, runner-up results, top-five finishes, top-10s and laps led in the Duels. All-time, the organization’s 14 Duel wins rank second only to Richard Childress Racing’s 15.
Both Duels will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.