Questions about new Daytona 500 qualifying format? Here are answers


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For the first time, the Daytona 500 pole will be set by group qualifying Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.

With speeds in Saturday’s practice above 200 mph, this could make the first time the Daytona 500 pole speed tops 200 since 1987  when Bill Elliott went 210.364 mph – before restrictor plates were used.

Here’s how Sunday’s qualifying format will work and who is in each group, which is based on a random draw:


  • Two groups of cars, five minutes each
  • Seven-minute break between each group
  • 24 fastest cars advance to the second round
  • 10-minute break before the second round


  • Five minutes in length
  • 12 fastest cars advance to the final round
  • Seven-minute break before the final round


  • Five minutes in length
  • Fastest lap earns the pole position
  • Only pole and second-place positions are set
  • Remainder of starting positions will be set primarily in next week’s qualifying races

A random draw Saturday determined the qualifying order. Those drawing an odd number are assigned to the first group in the opening round. The remaining cars will be in the second round.

All four Stewart-Haas Racing cars – Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart – are in the first group. Also in this group are Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano as well as Ryan Blaney, whose Wood Brothers team is aligned with Team Penske.

All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon – will be in the second group in the opening round.


Brad Keselowski

Bobby Labonte

Kevin Harvick

JJ Yelled

Denny Hamlin

Brian Scott

Joey Logano

Sam Hornish Jr.

Kurt Busch

Michael Annett

Clint Bowyer

Trevor Bayne

Justin Allgaier

Greg Biffle

Mike Wallace

Cole Whitt

Casey Mears

David Gilliland

David Ragan

Jeb Burton

Ryan Blaney

Danica Patrick

Reed Sorenson

Tony Stewart

Austin Dillon


Paul Menard

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Matt Kenseth

Ron Hornaday Jr.

Ryan Newman

Alex Bowman

Jamie McMurray

AJ Allmendinger

Johnny Sauter

Jimmie Johnson

Josh Wise

Kasey Kahne

Ty Dillon

Michael Waltrip

Aric Almirola

Kyle Larson

Landon Cassill

Justin Marks

Kyle Busch

Jeff Gordon

Carl Edwards

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Martin Truex Jr.

Michael McDowell

COTA Cup starting lineup


Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, who has won two of the first five races of the season, will lead the Cup field to the green flag Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron will be joined on the front row of the starting lineup by Tyler Reddick, the only driver to win multiple races at road courses last year.

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Austin Cindric starts third and is joined in the second row by Jordan Taylor, who is filling in for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick car.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

William Byron wins Cup pole at COTA


William Byron will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron won the pole with a lap of 93.882 mph around the 3.41-mile road course Saturday. He becomes the first Cup driver to win a pole at four different road courses: Charlotte Roval (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis road course (2021) and COTA (2023).

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Byron will be joined on the front row by Tyler Reddick, who had posted the fastest lap in Friday’s practice and fastest lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday. Reddick qualified at 93.783 mph.

Austin Cindric (93.459 mph) qualified third. Former IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, substituting for an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified fourth with a lap of 93.174 mph. AJ Allmendinger (93.067) will start fifth.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

Ross Chastain, who won this event a year ago, qualified 12th. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 22nd, former world champion Jenson Button qualified 24th, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 31st and IndyCar driver Conor Daly qualified 35th.

Sunday Cup race at Circuit of the Americas: Start time, TV info, weather


Is this Toyota’s weekend?

Chevrolet won the first four races of the season. Ford won last weekend with Joey Logano at Atlanta. Is it Toyota’s turn to win its first Cup race of the season? Or does Chevrolet return to dominance?

Chevrolet drivers have won 11 of the past 12 Cup races on road courses. The exception was Christopher Bell‘s win for Toyota at the Charlotte Roval in last year’s playoffs. Chevrolets have won the two previous Cup races at COTA: Chase Elliott in 2021 and Ross Chastain in 2022.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard in “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+, will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting at 2:45 p.m. … Driver introductions at 3:05 p.m. … Invocation will be given by Sage Steele, ESPN broadcaster, at 3:30 p.m. … Jaime Camil, actor from “Schmigadoon” on Apple TV+, will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 68 laps (231.88 miles) on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 15. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Pre-race coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and moves to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and will also stream at; SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground – Mostly cloudy with a high of 80 degrees and a 2% chance of rain at the start of the race.

STARTING LINEUP: COTA Cup starting lineup

LAST YEAR: Ross Chastain scored his first career Cup win in a physical battle with AJ Allmendinger on the final lap. Alex Bowman finished second. Christopher Bell placed third.


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NASCAR Saturday schedule at Circuit of the Americas


Saturday will be a busy day at Circuit of the Americas, as all three national series are on the track.

Cup will qualify ahead of the Craftsman Truck and Xfinity Series races.

The forecast Saturday calls for sunny conditions and no chance of rain all day. The high is expected to be 69 degrees during Cup qualifying, 76 degrees at the start of the Truck race and 81 degrees for the start of the Xfinity race.

Zane Smith looks to win his second consecutive Truck race at the road course in Austin, Texas. AJ Allmendinger seeks his second consecutive Xfinity win at COTA.

Saturday, March 25

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 10:30 a.m.  — Truck Series
  • 2 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (42 laps, 143 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 5 p.m. — Xfinity race (46 laps, 156 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)