Austin Dillon is in the top spot and on Thursday night the Daytona 500 Qualifying Duels will go on at 7 pm and 8:30 pm for the full lineup of the Daytona 500 on Sunday and the drivers will be ready as the event is on TV on Fox Sports 1 and streaming online.
Danica Patrick already has her spot in the Daytona 500 after becoming the first woman to win a NASCAR pole and on Thursday qualifying races begin with the Budweiser Duel as 43 drivers prepare to fight for position for the Great American Race.
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The Duel gives drivers a chance to make up for poor results in speed sessions and gives some drivers a final chance to make it into the Daytona 500. The 150-mile Duel battle will be a good chance for teams to see how the other cars are driving and it will also give crews an idea of what vehicles will be the fastest on the track.
During Speedweeks all the focus was on Danica Patrick and for good reason, but the Thursday race will give everyone a chance to see how she drives on the track with other cars and how she will react while racing in a pack. Patrick will want to be aggressive, but she will also have to be careful while on the track, as she will not want to find her car damaged, which would force her to go to her backup car.
Another thing to keep an eye on during the Duels will be how the new NASCAR Gen-6 will run in a race. Some drivers will want to try an cruise through the Duel, but some others may try to race harder to get better position, but they also run the risk of getting into a wreck.
The 60 laps offers a chance for some drivers to move up, but it also runs the risk of cars being wrecked, something no one wants to do.
"You don't want to take the chance of wrecking the car," Tony Gibson said to ESPN.com. "Nobody does. But sometimes there's nothing you can do about it."
Everyone in the field is racing for a starting position, while Patrick and Jeff Gordon are already set after coming one and two in the pole. Some other drivers are locked in after being in the top six on pole day, including Trevor Bayne, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne.
The qualifying rules can get a bit muddled, but all the drivers will be looking to get in prime position for the Great American Race. The 30 positions behind Patrick and Gordon will be set after Thursday's Duels and Tony Stewart may have an advantage, as he has won three times in 150-mile races. Last year's Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski will be in the second duel.
The races are set to start at 2 PM ET and will be broadcast live on Speed. The second race will begin at 3:30 PM ET. The race will determine all the starting positions for the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
News also came out that the Duels next year will be moving into primetime on the night of Feb. 20. The announcement was made by speedway president Joie Chitwood, who said in a statement: "Moving the Budweiser Duel under the lights will add another dimension to Budweiser Speedweeks."