What a beautiful sight it is to see cars back on track competing again, yeah we got it last week with the Clash but this week at Daytona is the real deal with everyone pushing at their hardest for the first time. This new qualifying format has the drivers compete in normal single car qualifying and then from there the top 10 drivers run another hot lap for the pole and rest of the top 10 standings. I really enjoyed the new format as it allowed for drivers to change what they did in their first run to the second run and maybe get a shot at the pole.
Unlike a lot of the last couple years there would be open cars going home, 6 cars trying to make it that were not locked in with 2 cars going home. The two drivers that locked themselves in on speed were Noah Gragson, driving the Beard Motorsports car and Jacques Villeneuve driving for Team Hezberg. The rest of the open drivers are going to need to race their way into the 500 via the duels tonight where the best of the open drivers advance. Kaz Grala and JJ Yaley are among the drivers that need to cut their way through the field if they want their weekend to continue through Sunday.
Now into the actual driving. Remember when we were told that there would be a more even playing field throughout due to the new car, well that was somewhat true for the middle and back of the pack drivers, up front it is still Hendrick Motorsports locking out the front row and only one Aric Almirola lap away from a 1-4 start in the duels. Kyle Larson threw down a hot lap for the ages on a track where he is notably not one of the best drivers and proved that he can pick up right where he left off. This now begs the question, does he bail on the duels and fall to the back so he does not risk losing his top spot in the big race Sunday? Only time will tell.