Conor Daly

Bad luck plagued Conor Daly’s qualifying attempt to earn a spot in the 65th Daytona 500 so much Wednesday night that he booked a plane ticket to Los Angeles for Friday, expecting not to make the show.

But Thursday night, good fortune finally smiled upon Daly. It’s time to cancel that flight.

Daly earned a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series’ biggest race Sunday, Feb. 19 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX) by finishing 17th in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 at Daytona on Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway. He will make his first NASCAR oval start from the 34th position on the grid in the No. 50 Chevrolet owned by boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“Well, we were inherently unlucky for the last 36 hours, but we got lucky,” Daly said. “I wish I could have said that I drove it in on pure pace, but it was just crazy.

“This race, I've watched it for so many years and so much crazy stuff can happen, and thankfully we were on the right side of the craziness. It's pretty amazing.”

Daly ended up a lap down in the 60-lap qualifying race, won by Aric Almirola, but still managed to qualify for the race despite severe handling problems with his car. Daly needed to finish ahead of Austin Hill to earn a spot, as they essentially were in a head-to-head duel for a berth due to neither being one of the 36 teams with Charters and guaranteed starting spots in the race.

Full-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver Daly didn’t have a chance to earn a spot in the race on speed during qualifying Wednesday night, as he never turned a lap on the 2.5-mile oval after an electrical problem burned a hole in his oil line. His start in the qualifying race Thursday night – his last chance to make the show – was just as ominous.

Daly’s car was bouncing noticeably during the pace laps and early portions of the race, causing him to radio to crew chief Tony Eury Jr. in alarm. His The Money Team crew worked on the car during the one pit stop of the race, and Daly was running one lap down, with Hill on the lead lap.

Then fate – and one of Daytona’s notorious “big one” accidents – intervened on behalf of Daly.

With 20 laps to go, Kyle Busch spun into the wall after rear contact from Daniel Suarez. The ensuing chaos and chain-reaction crash collected six cars, including Hill’s. That elevated Daly to a qualifying position, and he cruised to the finish.

“When we went out there, the car was bouncing around,” Daly said. “I had no idea what was going on. I thought the drivetrain was broken, and Tony just made it better every time. We got lucky with the yellows to try to get some experience, but it is pretty crazy.”

Daly, 31, will become the 62nd driver to race in both the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500. He can become in May the 29th driver to compete in both races in the same year.