In early years, qualifying had varying formats: from one timed lap, to the average of two laps, to the better of two laps. The idea of having two individual races to establish the starting lineup of the Daytona 500 dates back to the first race in 1959. That event, advertised as "the 500 Mile NASCAR International Sweepstakes", featured cars from NASCAR's Grand National (now Sprint Cup Series) division racing against cars in the Convertible division. The first of the 100-mile (160 km) qualifying races consisted of Convertible division cars and the second of Grand National cars. Shorty Rollins won the 100-mile Convertible race to become the track's first winner. When the green flag was thrown on the first Daytona 500, 59 cars raced to the starting line; the event was held without a caution period during the entire race. In 1960 (incidentally, the first ever national telecast of a NASCAR race), the last chance race was eliminated; from 1960 through 1968 the qualifying events were 100 miles (160 km) in length. When the season opened in 1969, the qualifying races were increased to 125 miles (201 km), which meant the drivers would have to make at least one pit-stop to refuel. Prior to 1971, the qualifying races yielded points to the drivers' championship.
The 12-mile-per-hour (19 km/h) reduction in speed for the 1971 qualification was a result of NASCAR's effort to limit the increasing speeds achieved through the late 1960s and early 1970s. Engine size and technology, along with increased aerodynamic styling changes, brought speeds to over 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) at some of the larger superspeedways. In an effort to reduce the escalating costs of developing faster racing equipment, increased horsepower, and the lack of parity in competition, NASCAR implemented several restrictions for the 1971 season, attempting to reduce speed by two methods. It experimented with restrictor plates for the first time at Michigan in August 1970. At the beginning of the 1971 season, NASCAR limited an engine's cubic inch displacement. The reductions had the effect of reducing costs for teams, but also limiting the horsepower and top speeds of NASCAR teams. At the time, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. stated:"Special cars, including the Mercury Cyclone Spoiler, Ford Talladega, Dodge Daytona, Dodge Charger 500, and Plymouth SuperBird shall be limited to a maximum engine size of 305 cubic inches." —Bill France Sr.,
Corporate sponsors purchased naming rights to qualifying races; between 1982 and 1984, Uno cards was the title sponsor for the "Uno Twin 125’s" qualifying events. In 1985 they became known as "7-Eleven Twin 125's"; no sponsors funded the 1988 and 1989 qualifying events and the races were called "Daytona Twin Qualifiers". Gatorade became the sponsor of the dual qualifying events in 1991. In 2005, the event was increased 150 miles (240 km), and became known as the "Gatorade Duels".
Since the restrictor plate era began in 1988, qualifying has been established as the best single lap of two; drivers are permitted one warm-up lap followed by two consecutive timed laps. Since restrictor plate cars require more time to accelerate to full speed, drivers often consider their first timed lap a "throwaway lap," and use it essentially as a second warm-up lap; and the second timed lap is usually the fastest of the three laps.
In August 2009, NASCAR announced that it would reschedule the 2010 opening round of qualifying to avoid a conflict with the NFL Super Bowl. The events that determine the top two starters for the Daytona 500 were rescheduled after the NFL moved the Super Bowl day one week to February 7, 2010. Qualifying had originally been scheduled for February 7, but NASCAR moved the date back to Saturday, February 6, to avoid conflict with the NFL. Daytona Speedway president, Robin Braig, stated:"We're excited about the new schedule, By moving Daytona 500 qualifying to Saturday, we are now providing even more value to our race fans. (They) can now enjoy a unique racing triple-header as well as all the festivities surrounding the Super Bowl the following day." —Robin Braig,
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“The history of reform is always identical; it is the comparison of the idea with the fact. Our modes of living are not agreeable to our imagination. We suspect they are unworthy. We arraign our daily employments.”
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