Sunday, August 14, 2022

Road to the 500: A Guide to How Each Open Car Can Make The Daytona 500


Following Sunday afternoon’s Daytona 500 Pole Qualifying Session, the path to qualify for the Daytona 500 became clearer for the seven open teams trying to get their way into the biggest NASCAR Cup Series Race of the season next Sunday Afternoon.

Justin Haley, Brendan Gaughan, Chad Finchum, Timmy Hill, J.J. Yeley, Daniel Suarez and Reed Sorenson all now know what they need to do to get their teams into the Daytona 500.

Justin Haley, No. 16 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, Kaulig Racing

Justin Haley & Kaulig Racing, both attempting their first Daytona 500 in 2020, made their path to the Daytona 500 very easy Sunday afternoon, clocking in fastest of the seven open cars (31st Overall at 190.018MPH), Haley and his team are guaranteed a spot into the Daytona 500 either via speed, or placing first of the open cars in their Duel Race Thursday Night.

Brendan Gaughan, No. 62 Beard Oil / South Point Casino Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, Beard Motorsports

Sunday afternoon’s qualifying session left Brendan Gaughan and Beard Motorsports a little confused after dropping off nearly half a second from the lap times they ran in qualifying trim in practice Saturday. Gaughan still clocked in second of the seven open cars (33rd Overall at 188.945MPH), locking him into the Daytona 500 alongside his ECR Engine teammate Justin Haley.

Reed Sorenson, No. 27 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Premium Motorsports

Reed Sorenson and Premium Motorsports are not strangers to having to race their way into the Daytona 500 in their Duel Races, and although that isn’t Sorenson’s only path to be in the 2020 Daytona 500, it is the only way that he can control his own destiny on Thursday Night.

Sorenson clocked in third of the seven open cars in Sunday’s Qualifying Session (34th Overall at 187.356MPH), and will have three paths to get into next Sunday’s Daytona 500.

The easiest way for Sorenson, is for him to finish highest of the open cars in Duel No. 1 on Thursday Night, locking him into the Daytona 500. His two other paths are more difficult ones, and require Sorenson and his Premium Motorsports Team to put their fate in the hands of Brendan Gaughan or Justin Haley. If Haley and/or Gaughan are able to accomplish that on Thursday Night, then Sorenson will find himself locked in to the 2020 Daytona 500 via his qualifying speed.

Timmy Hill, No. 66 VSI Racing / Ford Mustang, MBM Motorsports

After clocking in fourth out of the seven open teams in Sunday Afternoon’s qualifying session (35th Overall at 186.625MPH), Timmy Hill’s path to the Daytona 500 may be questionable when Thursday Night’s Duel Races come around.

Hill has two potential routes to get into the Daytona 500, either race his way in, by being the highest finishing Open Car in Duel No. 2 on Thursday, or hoping that both Justin Haley AND Brendan Gaughan are the top finishing open cars in each of their duel races, ensuring that both Timmy Hill and Reed Sorenson make it into the Daytona 500 via Qualifying Speed.

Daniel Suarez, No. 96 Toyota Express Maintenance, Toyota Camry, Gaunt Brothers Racing

Coming into Daytona, many thought Daniel Suarez was essentially a lock into the Daytona 500, considering the past speed that the Gaunt Brothers Racing Team has shown on the superspeedways in the last couple years, but Sunday’s Qualifying Session proved to be anything but successful for Suarez and the No. 96 Team.

Clocking in fifth of the seven Open Cars (36th Overall at 185.479MPH), Daniel Suarez and the No. 96 Team have only one possible path into the Daytona 500 next Sunday, race his way in.

Suarez will need to be the top chartered car in Duel No. 1 next Thursday Night, which could prove to be a tall task, having to beat Justin Haley, Reed Sorenson & Chad Finchum. If Suarez is unable to do so, he and the No. 96 Team will fail to qualify for the Daytona 500, adding a somber note to Suarez’s first full-season for the team, and the team’s first full-season ever.

J.J. Yeley, No. 54 Ford Mustang, Rick Ware Racing

Back in November, J.J. Yeley was announced as a full-time driver for Rick Ware Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series for the 2020 Season after some impressive runs for the team in 2019.

That is why many were confused when Rick Ware Racing showed up to Daytona with J.J. Yeley in the teams only Open Entry for the Daytona 500. The move raises questions for concern as J.J. Yeley clocked in sixth of the seven Open Cars trying to make it into the Daytona 500 (39th Overall at 183.292MPH). With Yeley so far down the speed charts of the open entries, the No. 54 Team will be backed into a box on Thursday Night, having to be the highest finishing of the Open Cars in Duel No. 2, having to edge out both Timmy Hill and Brendan Gaughan, who seem poised to be fairly quick in the pack come Thursday Night.

Chad Finchum, No. 49 Garrison Homes / Knoxville Toyota, Toyota Camry, MBM Motorsports

Finally, Chad Finchum is looking to make his second ever NASCAR Cup Series Race and first Daytona 500, in a second MBM Motorsports Entry No. 49.

Finchum clocked in seventh of the seven Open Cars Sunday Afternoon (41st Overall at 181.763MPH), meaning that Finchum has only one path to make it into the 500, Race his way in. In what seems like a tall task for the Knoxville, TN native, Finchum will have to be ahead of three fairly strong open cars (No. 96, No. 16 & No. 27) at the end of Duel No. 1 on Thursday Night.

Although, it may seem almost impossible for Finchum to make it into the 500, this is Daytona, and as we have seen many times over the years, it is important to never count anyone out, and always expect the unexpected.

Tune in Thursday Night at 7:00PM EST for the 2020 Bluegreen Vacations Duel’s at Daytona, and find out which forty drivers will start the 2020 Daytona 500 next Sunday, and which three drivers and teams will leave Speedweeks early. As Always, will have coverage of the latest happenings in the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series, NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and the ARCA Menard’s Series all throughout the 2020 NASCAR Season.

Joseph Srigley
Joseph Srigley
University of Windsor | Business Administration - Supply Chain & Data Analytics Editor at

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