Official Daytona 500 entry list released; qualifying format explained

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Last week, we ran a preliminary Daytona 500 entry list based on confirmations and projections of entries from all offseason announcements.

There’s only one change from the list we outlined, and it’s an addition. The 48 cars listed last week are all on the official entry list, joined by the No. 40 Hillman Racing Chevrolet driven by Landon Cassill for the entry list completion of 49 cars.

VIEW: Official Entry List

More importantly perhaps is a rundown of owner points shuffles/changes and how the cars will qualify for the Daytona 500. The Daytona 500 qualifying format, unlike the remaining 35 NASCAR Sprint Cup races this year, is unchanged.

  • The front row, positions 1-2, will be filled by single-car, two-lap time trials held on Sunday.
  • Positions 3-32 are filled by the top 15 finishers in each of the Budweiser Duel races held Thursday night. The 16th place car gets in if either driver on the Daytona 500 front row finishes in the top 15.
  • Positions 33-36 go to the four fastest qualifying speeds not already locked in via Duel results.
  • Positions 37-42 are provisionals based on 2013 owner points, not already locked in by any of the above ways.
  • Position 43 is a past champion’s provisional, descending in order from most recent past champ not already locked in.

And now, the owner points changes:

  • At Richard Childress Racing, the No. 3 (Austin Dillon) takes the No. 29 points from Kevin Harvick last year.
  • Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet will have the No. 39 points from Ryan Newman. As a new entry, Kurt Busch’s No. 41 will not have any 2013 owner points to use, but he will have a past champion’s provisional available if needed.
  • Michael Waltrip Racing shifts the No. 56 owner points from Martin Truex Jr. to Brian Vickers’ No. 55, while Waltrip’s own No. 66 will take the No. 55 points.
  • BK Racing’s No. 23 (Alex Bowman) will have the No. 93 2013 points; the No. 93 driven by Morgan Shepherd won’t have any as a new entrant fielded by MacDonald Motorsports, per Sporting News’ Bob Pockrass.
  • The Randy Humphrey-fielded No. 77, driven by Dave Blaney, will take the No. 19 2013 points.

There are 14 cars entered that are outside the top 35 in 2013 entrant points, and eight of these 14 will make the field. So although three drivers have a past champion’s provisional available, they’ll likely need to qualify either on speed or via their Budweiser Duel result. They are arranged by owner points and include:

  • 83-Ryan Truex, BK Racing (36th in 2013, 36 2013 attempts)
  • 32-Terry Labonte, Go Fas Racing (37th, 36, plus eighth in PCP order)
  • 33-Brian Scott, Richard Childress Racing (38th, 36)
  • 35-Eric McClure, Front Row Motorsports (39th, 36)
  • 87-Joe Nemechek, Jay Robinson (40th, 36)
  • 21-Trevor Bayne, Wood Brothers (41st, 12)
  • 98-Josh Wise, Phil Parsons Racing (42nd, 33)
  • 40-Landon Cassill, Hillman Racing (43rd, 16)
  • 95-Michael McDowell, Leavine Family Racing (44th, 22)
  • 77-Dave Blaney, Humphrey Racing (45th, 23)
  • 41-Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing (New entry, 0, plus fourth in PCP order)
  • 52-Bobby Labonte, HScott Motorsports (New entry, 0, plus seventh in PCP order)
  • 26-Cole Whitt, Swan Racing (New entry, 0)
  • 93-Morgan Shepherd, MacDonald Motorsports (New entry, 0)

With 200 IndyCar wins in the books, Penske looks for No. 201 at Indy

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The history of Team Penske at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a storied one that features 16 Indy 500 wins, including a pair of four-time winners in Al Unser and Rick Mears, and number of utterly dominant performances.

Yet, they’ll head to this year’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 looking to avenge a pair of relatively subpar performances in each of the last two years.

Power was the only Penske driver to finish in the Top 10 in 2016, with Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud finishing 11th and 19th after fuel strategy intervened late in the race. And last year, all the Penske cars were somewhat down on pace compared to other teams, notably the Honda cars.

Power was the only Penske driver to qualify for the Fast Nine Pole Shootout last year – he qualified ninth. Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves were 18th and 19th in the grid, while Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud were 22nd and 23rd.

And only Castroneves was in winning contention in the final laps as he battled eventual winner Takuma Sato – Montoya was sixth, while Pagenaud was 14th and the only other Penske running at the end. Both Newgarden and Power crashed out on Lap 183.

This year, however, could see a return to the dominant form we’re used to seeing from the Penske outfit. All four cars entered – Pagenaud, Power, Newgarden, and Castroneves – qualified inside the top nine, with Pagenaud and Power on the front row.

They have all been near the front of the time sheets, especially in laps without a tow from another car, and the indication is that the Penske cars may be the fastest ones in the field.

All told, it leads to very high expectations for a team that already expects highly of itself.

Leading the way for Penske is current points leader and defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden. Newgarden’s best Indy 500 finish is third in 2016, but he only has one other Top 10 there – ninth in 2015.

But, with an IndyCar title now under his belt, Newgarden has his eyes set on an Indy 500 win.

Josef Newgarden looks to add an Indy 500 crown to his 2017 championship. Photo: IndyCar

“I think Indianapolis…is certainly next on the list for me,” he detailed in a press conference ahead of qualifying. “It’s not next on the list for the team, they’ve won it many times. The good thing is we have four great opportunities, especially having Helio back. I think we have one of the best opportunities in the entire field to win this race.”

Pagenaud, like Newgarden, is also looking for his first Indy triumph, though his record there isn’t quite as good. He has been fast at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but only has two Top 10s to show for it – eighth in 2013 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and tenth in 2015 in his first year with Penske.

And a Pagenaud win would be somewhat historic – it would be only the fourth time a French driver has won the “500,” and the first since 1920 (Gaston Chevrolet).

Pagenaud explained that this race always holds a place as a top priority, and that success at Indy is all about preparation.

Simon Pagenaud looks to become only the first French driver to win an Indy 500 since Gaston Chevrolet in 1920. Photo: IndyCar

“It really is our number one goal. In Roger and Tim’s heart, it’s the most important one,” Pagenaud declared. “We prepare really hard. The team does a fantastic job at just understanding every bit and component of this new aero kit, trying to extract the best out of the equipment.”

Pagenaud added, “On the driver side, there’s a lot you can do obviously to review the past races, try to focus yourself, try to put yourself into the race before it happens, try to just improve. That’s what we try to do every day. That’s the goal. That’s why this group is so good. We push each other so hard that you always try to push the limits away.”

Power, the man who delivered Penske his 200th IndyCar win, is no stranger to success at IMS, having won the Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course three times. But, he is yet to find Victory Lane on the oval, and that leaves a void in an otherwise stellar career.

Will Power has won the INDYCAR Grand Prix three times, and looks for his first win at the “500” this weekend. Photo: IndyCar

Power spotlighted the opportunity in front of him, and detailed that running in traffic has been a strength thus far through practice.

“It’s fantastic to have that opportunity. Obviously very focused on (trying to win),” he revealed. “I feel like we have a really good opportunity to win this year. I mean, I think Chevrolet has brought a really good engine. I feel like we’re really fast. Running in traffic and such, I felt like we’ve been pretty strong, especially when you get to the front.”

Castroneves is the only Penske driver with Indy 500 wins on his resume. But, with three wins to his name, Castroneves is more than familiar with IMS glory.

Now a part-time IndyCar driver who races full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship with the Acura Team Penske outfit, Castroneves’ sole focus is on getting that elusive fourth win.

Helio Castroneves looks to join the four-time winners club at the Indy 500. Photo: IndyCar

And he has momentum on his side too, coming off a debut IMSA win for the Acura Penske outfit at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. A fourth Indy 500 win would put an exclamation point on the month for Castroneves.

“I think about it every day,” he said when asked about how often he ponders getting that fourth win. “It was one of those incredible ones, I have phenomenal car, the Pennzoil car was really strong last year. Obviously coming back here, first of all, I want to thank Roger and (team president Tim Cindric) for giving me the opportunity to be back at the Indy 500. It’s such a special place for so many people. Just to be back and able to continue our goal and pursue for the number four, it’s incredible.”

Pagenaud and Power will flank pole sitter Ed Carpenter on the front, starting second and third respectively. Newgarden starts fourth, while Castroneves will start eighth.

Follow@KyleMLavigne