The Daytona 500 will take place on February 20, officially kicking off the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. 40 teams will battle for the win, but two more will head home early after failing to qualify for the Crown Jewel race.
NASCAR released the Daytona 500 entry list on February 14 and revealed that 42 drivers will head to Florida with the goal of securing a spot in the big race. 36 will have a guaranteed spot due to being chartered entries. They will just have the opportunity to focus on posting the fastest times in qualifying.
The other six drivers — Noah Gragson (Beard Motorsports), JJ Yeley (Motorsports Business Management), Jacques Villeneuve (Team Hezeberg), Kaz Grala (TMT Racing), Greg Biffle (NY Racing), and Timmy Hill (Motorsports Business Management) will have to battle for a spot in the race during single-car qualifying on Wednesday, February 16, and the Bluegreen Vacation Duel races on Thursday, February 17.
ALL the latest NASCAR news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on NASCAR newsletter here!
Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is unique. The fastest open team in each Duel race will qualify for the Daytona 500. The two open teams with the fastest times from single-car qualifying that didn’t qualify through the duels will take the final two spots in the 40-car field.
Gragson Will Adjust To a New Stock Car
The driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro attempted to qualify for the Daytona 500 for the first time in 2021. He joined Beard Motorsports and drove the No. 62 Chevrolet Camaro during one of the Duel races. However, he was unable to secure his spot in the season-opening race due to a crash.
Gragson will return to the World Center of Racing for the 2022 iteration, but he will climb into a drastically different stock car. Gragson hasn’t had the opportunity to take part in the Gen 7 tests at Phoenix, Charlotte, or Daytona, but he has a source of information. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Gragson’s boss, took part in multiple tests to gain more knowledge for his upcoming NBC broadcasts.
“I talked to Dale after his test at Daytona and he said it’s a little bit different, but it handles like a speedway car,” Gragson said in a press release from Beard Motorsports. “In fact, it should handle more like an Xfinity car, and the package should be more like that. The Xfinity Series has been my bread and butter these last few years, so it’s going to be a new set of challenges, but we’re excited for it. We’re excited to learn it, we’re excited to get on track down in Daytona and really figure it out, but we won’t know until we get there.”
2 Teams Remain Question Marks
While Beard Motorsports and MBM Motorsports both frequently take part in the trip to Daytona International Speedway, there are two other teams with far less experience in the Daytona 500. TMT Racing and NY Racing will both remain question marks until qualifying and the Bluegreen Vacation Duel races.
TMT Racing, a creation of Hall of Fame boxer Floyd Mayweather, is a new addition to the Cup Series. The team released an announcement video on March 21, 2020, and revealed a first look at the logo. However, TMT Racing did not compete during the 2020 or 2021 seasons.
This trend will change in 2022 as TMT Racing heads to Daytona International Speedway. The team will try to qualify for the Daytona 500 with Kaz Grala behind the wheel of the No. 50 Chevrolet Camaro. Whether they achieve this goal remains unknown, but Grala will bring some Cup Series experience to the stock car.
NY Racing is the other question heading toward qualifying on February 16. The Cup Series team has extensive experience competing but has remained away from the top level of stock car racing since the 2018 season. Now, however, NY Racing will return to the Cup Series with Greg Biffle as the driver of the Richard Childress Racing-built stock car.
The Biff is no stranger to success in Cup given his 19 wins in 510 starts, but he hasn’t competed in the series since the 2016 season. Will he have to shake off any rust at Daytona, or will he showcase speed behind the wheel? There will not be a clear answer until qualifying on February 16 and the Bluegreen Vacation Duel races on February 17.