Every year after the Daytona qualifying races, I like to go through and figure out how things would have shaken out under the old rules before the top-35 rule took effect. If you are not familiar with those rules, here is a quick recap:
* The top 14 cars from each race, excluding the front row for the Daytona 500, fill positions 3-30 in the field.
* Positions 31-38 are filled by the next 8 fastest qualifying times.
* Positions 39-43 were used as provisionals.
Of course, drivers wouldn't race exatly the same way if the rules were different, but just based on race results alone, this is a recap of is how things would have turned out.
Over the last few years, there were dramatic differences. I remember either in 2007 or 2008 when several big-name drivers, including Elliott Sadler (he's just the one that sticks out in my mind and I'm not sure what I did with that list), would have missed the Daytona 500 based on the former set of rules. However, the differences this year were much less significant, likely due to the fact that we had a lot of unsponsored, start-up teams at the back of the field in both races. This year, the top 30 spots would be the same either way, so we will look at the remainder of the field.
Top 30: same as actual lineup
31. Bill Elliott
32. Sam Hornish Jr.
33. Joe Nemechek
34. Bobby Labonte
35. Michael Waltrip
36. Paul Menard
37. Jeff Burton
38. Robby Gordon
39. Boris Said
40. Robert Richardson Jr.
41. Travis Kvapil
42. John Andretti
43. Aric Almirola
The only difference this year would have been that Aric Almirola would have made the race instead of Max Papis. Michael Waltrip also would have been much less nervous! Front Row Motorsports would not have been as confident, though, since 3 of the 5 provisional spots would have been used up by their teams. If a few more drivers like Mears or Sorenson had made the race, pushing drivers like Jeff Burton or Robby Gordon into provisional-land, they could have been in big trouble. Of course, this is merely hypothetical since so many things are determined by the rules themselves, but it's still something I always enjoy figuring out each February.
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