- Associated Press - Monday, February 18, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (AP) - The Daytona 500 qualifying process seems stranger than a “Harlem Shake” video.

Here’s the simplest explanation:

With 45 cars entered for “The Great American Race,” only two drivers will go home after the twin 150-mile qualifying races Thursday.

Former IndyCar star Danica Patrick and four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon secured their spots during pole qualifying Sunday. They will start on the front row.

The top 15 finishers in each qualifying race, not including Patrick and Gordon, will fill the next 30 starting positions in the Daytona 500.

The two slowest drivers from Sunday’s pole qualifying _ Mike Bliss and Brian Keselowski _ also are lowest in 2012 owner points. So they must finish in the top 15 of their qualifying race to make the field.

If they don’t, everyone else is safely in the Daytona 500.

Simple, right?

The perplexing part comes when looking at drivers already locked in based on Sunday’s qualifying speeds and last year’s Sprint Cup standings.

The four locked in on speed are Trevor Bayne, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne. The six locked in because of owner points are defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Kurt Busch also is guaranteed a starting spot because he’s the most recent past champion not locked in.

Of course, all those names would change if any of those drivers race their way in (top-15 finish) Thursday.

Got it?

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