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Daytona Qualifying Races

Daytona Qualifying Races

Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is unique in NASCAR. Only the two front row starters (the pole and "outside pole") are determined by the standard knockout qualifying system. For all other drivers it only determines their starting position in their Duel (Qualifying Race), with odd placed cars being entered into the first Duel and even placed cars going in the second. After the Top 2 positions are locked in, the next 30 places of starting grid of the Daytona 500 is set by the finishing order of these two races with the top 15 (excluding pole winner and outside pole) making up the next 15 places on the inside and outside lanes respectively. After the Duels are completed the four fastest non-qualifiers by time and finally the six or seven (if no past champion's exemption is needed) highest-earning teams in points (from the previous season's standings) not in the race yet advance (also set by time), and the starting grid for the Daytona 500 would then be set. The order is still subject to change if technical regulations are violated.

The event began as twin 100-mile (40-lap) races. From 1959 to 1971, the races were counted with points towards the Grand National championship. Purses awarded were counted separately from those awarded in the Daytona 500. For 1968, the races were scheduled for 125 miles (201 km) each, but were cancelled due to rain, and the starting lineup for the 1968 Daytona 500 fell back on the timed laps. In 1969, the races were extended again to 125 miles (50 laps). Lengthening the races added the need for a pit stop, increasing the complexity and excitement of the races.

For 1972, NASCAR's modern era commenced, and the races were dropped from the Grand National schedule as points-paying championship events. As part of Winston's changes to the series, races were required to be at least 250 miles (400 km) to be included as official points events. The races continued, however, as a non-points event. CBS began covering the event in the early 1980s, airing them tape-delayed and edited the day before the Daytona 500.

With the introduction of restrictor plates in 1988, the resulting reduction in speed and fuel consumption again allowed drivers to possibly complete the race without a pit stop. Nine times from 1988 to 2004, one of the races went without a caution, and without a pit stop by the winner. In 2003, rules had been put in place requiring smaller fuel tanks on restrictor plate tracks (from 22 US gal (18 imp gal; 83 L) down to 13 US gal (11 imp gal; 49 L)), which effectively forced a pit stop once again.

Starting in 2001, the races were shown live on television, as the Daytona 500 would rotate between FOX/FX and NBC/TNT from 2001 to 2006.

In 2005, the races were lengthened to 150 miles (60-laps), given a new name, the Gatorade Duel, and from 2005 to 2012, used NASCAR's All-Exempt Tour format (similar to golf, but better known within NASCAR circles as the "top 35 rule"). The grids changed from even-odd qualifiers to a combination of even-odd based on the front row drivers by speed, then previous year's points standings (even-odd) of exempt and non-exempt teams by speed. A rain delay in 2006 saw the second race finish under the lights.

Starting in 2007, the Gatorade Duel is shown live on Speed, under the new broadcast agreement. That same year, allegations of cheating involving Michael Waltrip Racing came up. In 2013, Budweiser took over as sponsor of the Duels.

During Speedweeks 2013, Daytona International Speedway announced that the qualifying races would be held in prime-time and under stadium lighting on the Thursday before the Daytona 500 beginning in 2014, the races' debut on Fox Sports 1.

From 2016 to 2018, the races were renamed the Can-Am Duel after new title sponsor Bombardier Recreational Products' range of Can-Am All-terrain vehicles.

The Duels became a points event once again in 2017 with the unveiling of a new race format. The two race winners will receive ten points for their victories.

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