DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Ryan Preece and David Ragan each qualified their ways into Sunday’s 63rd annual Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN) among the open cars on Wednesday night. For both, this was big. For six others, it meant more work is needing done tonight.
Preece, was fastest among the eight open cars with a lap of 189.135 mph in his No. 37 Chevrolet. This was beneficial for them to make it in as their future is very much in doubt. JTG Daugherty Racing lost the charter for this ride and they also don’t have enough funding right now to run the full slate. Missing the Daytona 500 would have been costly for this ride to continue on for all 36 races.
But, Preece was confident heading into qualifying in saying that JTG was fast last year and he felt like they’d be fast again this time around.
“My entire racing career has pretty much been full of moments like this,” Preece said afterqualifying. “This was like no other day to me.”
Preece, had to go back and change before qualifying because he had on the wrong drivers suit.
“That was the most stressful thing I had going,” Preece continued.
In the case of Ragan, he’s back again for a Daytona 500 one off and he went 13th (188.561 mph) overall which was good enough for P2 among open cars.
Austin Cindric was a favorite in a Penske ride to land in one of the two guaranteed open spots but he was only 19th quickest. He will have to race his way in on Thursday night. So will Kaz Grala, Ty Dillon, Timmy Hill, Chad Finchum and Noah Gragson.
Gragson’s No. 62 Chevrolet failed inspection three times and didn’t get a chance to complete a qualifying lap. He will start last in his Duel on Thursday.
Six drivers enter, just two can race their ways in.
The top open finisher in the first Duel among Cindric, Dillon and Hill will take one spot with the top finisher among Grala, Smithley and Gragson will take the second spot in Duel 2.
After a one year hiatus in 2018, the Duels will once again mean something again in terms of drivers racing their ways into the big show. For the 2018 race, we saw 40 drivers show up for 40 spots. There wasn’t much of an incentive to race hard then. Everyone would be racing in the ‘500. Why unnecessarily tear up some equipment?
In 2019, we had six open cars where two of which are already guaranteed spots into the ‘500 due to their qualifying speeds. Last year, seven open cars came to Daytona with two locking themselves in already due to their qualifying speed again. Both Justin Haley and Brendan Gaughan last year knew that they’re in the field but Reed Sorenson, Daniel Suarez and Chad Finchum in Duel 1 and Timmy Hill and JJ Yeley in Duel 2 had to race their ways in for the final two spots.
This year, we have more cars showing up now.