Daytona 500 Field Set

It took two days and several crashes, but the field has been set for Sunday’s Daytona 500, the start of NASCAR’s Cup Series 2024 points-paying campaign.

Wednesday’s qualifying session locked in the front row slots for Sunday’s race, with 2015 Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano taking the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Dark Horse Mustang to the first pole position in this race for his team, with 2021 Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell alongside in the No. 34 for Front Row Motorsports and Ford Motor Co. as the new Mustang swept the front row.

Jimmie Johnson’s No. 84 Toyota Camry XSE barely edged J.J. Yeley to make the field – Getty Images for NASCAR

This duo had to compete in the pair of Buegreen Vacations Duel qualifying races on Thursday night, but their finishing positions of seventh last night for Logano and McDowell’s 17th place result didn’t mean much. They survived the carnage Daytona always brings, but it was the ability to get into the race that was the struggle for at least one of the series’ most successful drivers. Jimmie Johnson, not racing a full-time Toyota Camry XSE for Legacy Motor Club, just barely beat out J.J. Yeley to claim his spot in this 500. It’s the first time the seven-time champ has had to race his way into the biggest contest of the year.

Tyler Reddick used a smooth inside move with his 23XI Racing Toyota Camry XSE on the last lap of the first 150-mile qualifying race to earn his starting slot inside of the second row; he’s joined by Christopher Bell’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota after that driver, who failed to qualify for the Busch Light Clash at the quarteer-mile Coliseum circuit two weeks ago, found redemption on one of the biggest tracks the Cup Series competes on. Chase Elliott’s Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has the inside of the third row, joined by Austin Cindric’s Team Penske Ford. Alex Bowman’s Chevy and Denny Hamlin’s Toyota share the fourth row, with rookie Carson Hocevar’s Chevy and John Hunter Nemechek’s Toyota share the fifth row.

Tyler Reddick won the first Duel – Getty Images for NASCAR

The sole drivers not to make the 40-car field were Yeley and BJ McLeod. Ford has 16 cars in this race, Chevrolet has 15 and Toyota lines up nine Camrys on Sunday. If they actually race on Sunday, as weather concerns have moved the ARCA Menards contest to Friday Night and there could be other adjustments in the works for the balance of the weekend’s schedule. NASCAR has already shown it doesn’t have qualms about changing its schedule to adapt to weather concerns, as it did in California when monster rain squalls threatened the Busch Light Clash; the race was held Saturday night instead of Sunday night, and Denny Hamlin was the winner.

Reddick, who moved to 23XI Racing in 2024 to drive the No. 45 Toyota said the win was “A great way to start off the weekend,” after leading only the final lap to beat Elliott to the checkers by 0.056 seconds. “This thing is a beast!” Bell accomplished his victory following a a massive wreck in the first turn of the 48th lap. Reigning champion Ryan Blaney of Team Penske had a big hit after contact from Kyle Busch’s Richard Childress Racing Chevy that started an 11-car pileup.

Bell earned Duel 2 win – Getty Images for NASCAR

Bell restarted fourth with eight laps remaining and got the lead on the final lap. “These [superspeedway] races, I don’t know what to think of ‘em. It seems like we’ve been struggling to get to the end of it. I know I’ve been a common denominator in a lot of wrecks… it feels good to do everything well today,” Bell announced.

Among the drivers making the race were Kaz Grala in the No. 36 Ford from Front Row Motorsports and Zane Smith in the No. 71 WeatherTech Chevy; neither made the race in 2023.

Hendrick Motorsports is celebrating its 40th year of competing in NASCAR – courtesy Hendrick Motorsports

Among the activities prior to the pair of qualifying races, Hendrick Motorsports announced activities surrounding the team’s 40th anniversary season. The 14-time NASCAR Cup Series champions are taking advantage of the ruby red anniversary color, as owner Rick Hendrick’s organization will have many initiatives over the long season, including ruby red cars and a May fan event prior to the longest race of the season at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Coca-Cola 600. Hendrick racer Kyle Larson, who’s starting the Daytona 500 inside the ninth row, will attempt to race – and win – both the Indianapolis 500 and Coke 600 on the same day this May.

NASCAR stated the Daytona 500 will air in more than 185 countries and territories, able to reach more than 550 million households. In the United States, coverage is intended to begin at 2:30PM.

About Anne Proffit 1248 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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