DAYTONA, Fla. – It was qualifying day in Daytona. Sort of.
Here's what else we learned Sunday:
1. Sunday qualifying is B-O-R-I-N-G.
The process of 56 cars vying for only two starting spots is suspect to begin with. Tack on the fact that it takes three hours to complete and it becomes ridiculous.
Despite beautiful sunshine, there were easily more race officials, track attendants and security personnel on hand at Daytona International Speedway than there were fans in the stands, which were 99 percent empty.
Thursday's Duel races, which will set the order for the rest of the field, will make for much better entertainment.
Elliott, Kvapil and Stewart are in after posting the top three qualifying speeds by drivers outside last year's top 35. With Stewart earning a spot on speed, Labonte, despite clocking just the 50th fastest time, earned the champion's provisional.
3. Only four spots in the Daytona 500 will be up for grabs in Thursday's Gatorade Duels.
Here's how that works:
There are 43 spots in the field. The top 35 in owner's points from last season are all guaranteed a spot in the 500. The three fastest go-or-go-home drivers in Sunday's qualifying also were guaranteed a spot, as well as one past champion's provisional, leaving only four spots remaining.
Two transfer spots will be awarded in each Duel. Vying for those two spots in Duel No. 1 will be Brad Keselowski, Mike Skinner, Kirk Shelmerdine, Scott Riggs, Tony Raines, Carl Long and Joe Nemechek. Vying for those spots in Duel No. 2 will be Regan Smith, Boris Said, AJ Allmendinger, Jeremy Mayfield, Mike Wallace, Mike Garvey, Derrike Cope, Kelly Bires, Geoff Bodine, and Norm Benning.
4. The field is wide open.
Seven of the top-10 fastest qualifiers were not in last year's Chase.
Qualifying at restrictor-plate tracks doesn't necessarily translate to race speed, but the only trend on the speed chart is that there isn't one.
Less than 24 hours after winning the Budweiser Shootout in thrilling fashion, Kevin Harvick clocked the 49th-fastest time in qualifying. Bill Elliott, racing for the under-funded Wood Brothers, had a pole run going until the final turn. He wound up fifth-fastest.
5. Stewart-Haas Racing continues to shine.
In Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout, Stewart had a solid run in his debut as an owner/driver for Stewart-Haas Racing. Sunday, his team backed it up with another solid performance.
Ryan Newman, last year's Daytona 500 winner, missed sitting on the front row by .01. Still, he clocked the third-fastest time of the day.
Stewart, meanwhile, was 10th-fastest. Though he could lean on a champion's provisional to get into the 500, he won't need it.