Daytona 500 spots at stake for Open teams

by Justin Nguyen

There will be no love on Valentine’s Day for the quartet of Parker Kligerman, Ryan Truex, Joey Gase, and Brendan Gaughan. On Thursday evening, the four drivers will battle it out for the final two positions in Sunday’s Daytona 500 via the Gander RV Duels.

As their teams do not have charters, the four drivers (nicknamed “Open” teams) are not guaranteed a spot in any of the thirty-six Monster Energy Cup Series races. Unlike other races that typically feature a knockout qualifying format, the Daytona 500 grid is determined by the fastest two qualifiers (William Byron and Alex Bowman) on Sunday, while the rest of the field is set by finishes in the two 60-lap Gander RV Duels. Tyler Reddick and Casey Mears are also driving for Open teams, but qualified for the 500 with their sixteenth- and twenty-sixth-placed times on Sunday, respectively.

Of the four remaining drivers, Truex recorded the fastest lap time (47.434, twenty-seventh) ahead of Gaughan (47.520 seconds, thirty-first), of Kligerman (47.820, thirty-sixth), and Gase (49.743, forty-second).

Truex and Kligerman will compete in the first Duel and Gaughan and Gase in the second. As there are only two spots remaining in the grid, it might seem the goal is to finish ahead of the other, but Reddick and Mears will also run the Duels, further complicating matters as they can also claim the Open spots if they finish high enough.

Duel 1

Truex and Kligerman will start fourteenth and nineteenth in Duel 1, respectively, while Reddick is ninth.

For Truex to qualify, he has to finish ahead of Kligerman, regardless of Reddick’s position. He can also clinch a spot if Mears finishes ahead of Gase and Gaughan in their Duel. It is Truex’s first Daytona 500 attempt since he failed to qualify for the 2014 race.

For Kligerman to qualify, he need to finish ahead of both Truex and Reddick. Like Truex, Kligerman’s last 500 run was in 2014, with the Connecticut native finishing twenty-ninth.

On Twitter, Truex and Kligerman — close friends off the track — exchanged words:

Duel 2

Mears is the highest Open car in Duel 2 as he will start thirteenth. Gaughan is fifteenth and Gase will be at the rear of the field in twenty-first.

Gaughan has two potential scenarios to make the 500, with the simplest goal being to finish ahead of his two opponents. If Reddick is the best-finishing Open driver in Duel 1, Gaughan can still qualify if Mears beats him and Gase. Gaughan has three Daytona 500 starts to his name, including the last two races, with a best finish of eleventh in 2017.

Gase faces an uphill battle as he must be in front of both Gaughan and Mears. He finished twenty-third in his lone 500 appearance in 2017.

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