NASCAR Cup Series | Daytona 500 lineup and 3 takeaways from Thursday’s duels

Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott won Thursday’s Can-Am Duels to complete qualifying for the Daytona 500 and set the race’s final order, but there are other implications from the races as well. Here are the three biggest takeaways from Thursday’s races:

1. Throw out those early Daytona 500 predictions

Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski – three early favorites to win “The Great American Race” – and for what? To crash out of the qualifying duels and destroy their primary cars. It’s especially gutting for Keselowski, who won Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash and was easily one of the fastest cars this week. Johnson and Larson were contenders as well, but Keselowski has been the standout in Florida from the get-go, and his chances to win a Daytona 500 have never been so promising. Backup cars are backup cars for a reason, and it will be tough for any of those three to get their fill-in cars in position to legitimately challenge for the checkered flag.

2. All that talk about youth? Well ...

Elliott and Blaney both made deep playoff runs last season, and they have proven a few seasons into their careers that they’re the real deal. It wouldn’t be a shock if either won their first Daytona 500 on Sunday. But beyond the two duels winners, there were a handful of impressive younger drivers. Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. finished third in one (and probably should have been second) and Erik Jones was third in the other. At a time when NASCAR needed its up-and-coming drivers to take a leap forward, they’re doing just that.

3. Are the cars too fast to handle? Potentially

And that’s no observation – that’s straight from the mouths of several drivers and crew chiefs, who all said they would sacrifice a bit of speed for handling. It’s all well and good to have a superfast car, but if it’s uncontrollable (as is proving to be the case so far this week) then it does no good. How might the lack of handling manifest itself in the actual Daytona 500? Probably with more wrecks – potentially many more wrecks. It didn’t even take physical contact to cause crashes on Thursday; when that happens, there’s no telling how many cars will get caught.

Daytona 500

The projected lineup for Sunday’s race, from

Starting Position, Driver, Team

1. Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports

2. Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing

3. Ryan Blaney, Team Penske

4. Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports

5. Joey Logano, Team Penske

6. Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing

7. Darrell Wallace Jr. Richard Petty Motorsports

8. Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing

9. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing

10. Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing

11. Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing

12. Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing

13, Ryan Newman, Richard Childress Racing

14. Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing

15. David Ragan, Front Row Motorsports

16. Paul Menard, Wood Brothers Racing

17. Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing

18. Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing

19. Jamie McMurray, Chip Ganassi Racing

20. AJ Allmendinger, JTG Daugherty Racing

21. Chris Buescher, JTG Daugherty Racing

22. Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports

23. Ty Dillon, Germain Racing

24. Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing

25. Brendan Gaughan, Beard Motorsports

26. Kasey Kahne, Leavine Family Racing

27. Jeffrey Earnhardt, StarCom Racing

28. Danica Patrick, Premium Motorsports

29. Justin Marks, Rick Ware Racing

30. DJ Kennington, Gaunt Brothers Racing

31. Brad Keselowski, Team Penske

32. Corey LaJoie, TriStar Motorsports

33. William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports

34. Gray Gaulding, BK Racing

35. Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports

36. Matt DiBenedetto, Go Fas Racing

37. Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing

38. Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing

39. David Gilliland, RBR Enterprises

40. Mark Thompson, Phoenix Air Racing

Daytona 500

Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida.

When: Sunday, 2:30 p.m.


Radio: MRN.