The drama of the Daytona 500 qualifying races could be lacking if the entry list remains at 40 cars for the NASCAR Cup Series season-opening race Feb. 18.
With a field of 40 cars and only 40 teams on the preliminary entry list, no one would be sent home if there are no late entries. The Daytona International Speedway garage opens Friday for Cup teams with the first practice Saturday afternoon. NASCAR typically won’t allow an entry after the first practice.
Just three years ago, 52 cars attempted to make the then 43-car field for the Daytona 500, and 61 cars attempted in 2007. In 1969, NASCAR records show the race with 50 drivers starting the event (and a 51st driver listed as not starting) with no drivers failing to qualify — the last time that everyone who showed up made the field, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
In 2016, NASCAR implemented its charter system, its version of the franchise, and cut the field of its Cup races from 43 to 40 cars. The 36 teams with charters are guaranteed spots in the field each week, with four spots available to “open” teams.
The top-finishing open driver in each of the qualifying races next Thursday earns a spot in the Daytona 500, with the final two spots awarded to the next two open drivers with the best single-car qualifying speed from time trials Sunday.
The four open drivers entered are David Gilliland, Brendan Gaughan, D.J. Kennington and Mark Thompson. They would have to earn one of those spots if there is a late entry.
BK Racing, which has a charter, has no driver listed on its entry. It must have a car at Daytona or lose the charter. Union Bank & Trust, which alleges that BK Racing has defaulted on a loan with the charter among the collateral, has obtained a temporary restraining order to keep owner Ron Devine from selling or leasing the charter but allowing Devine to continue to operate the team. A hearing is scheduled for next Thursday on whether to appoint a bank-selected receiver to operate the team.