Sunday is Daytona 500 Pole Day at Daytona International Speedway. Unlike the other 35 races, Pole Day at Daytona only locks in the first and second starting positions. Being in those two spots is obviously significant from a media standpoint a lot more than it is from a performance standpoint. The reason is, as we always say, it doesn’t really matter where you start on a restrictor-plate track. Where you start is just not as important as it will be at Atlanta or at Phoenix after that.
What can’t be overlooked, however, is what I mentioned before: The media aspect of being the pole winner for our biggest race of the year. At all other places, the notoriety of winning the pole lasts for only about a day and a half. For the Daytona 500 it lasts for an entire week. That’s huge from a sponsor’s standpoint.
As a crew chief I helped my drivers over the years win 21 poles. Sometimes I have to close my eyes and try to remember where 20 of them were. The other one is instantly remembered. It was 1995, when we won the pole for the Daytona 500 with Dale Jarrett as our driver.
So being the pole winner for a full week in our sport’s biggest race is truly significant. Don’t forget that being on the pole or outside pole winner also gives you awesome pit selections. Lastly, unless they change the rules for 2017, remember that whoever wins the pole this Sunday is automatically guaranteed a spot in the Sprint Unlimited in 2017.
Again, there is a huge media advantage for the driver, the owner, the team and, more importantly, their sponsors when you win the Daytona 500 pole. It just really doesn’t give you a performance edge in the race. As we all know and have seen over the years, you can start the Daytona 500 mired back in 30th position and by Lap 10 you could be running in the top five.