For the second consecutive year, second-generation driver Chase Elliott qualified the pole for the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s biggest and most important race.
Elliott put down a single-lap speed of 192.872 miles per hour, good enough to again claim the top spot for the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports in this, the 59th running of the Great American Race.
The Daytona 500 takes place next Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on FOX.
Article continues below ...
It’s the third consecutive Daytona 500 pole for the No. 24 Hendrick squad, which also won it in 2015 with Jeff Gordon driving.
“This team definitely has a knack for these plate tracks as they showed with Jeff Gordon and then last year with here and Talladega,” said Elliott, the 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. “But that stuff doesn’t just happen by staying the same as everybody knows.”
Elliott said he was proud that his team stepped up again this year.
“Everyone is always trying to get better and make their cars better and faster; and the engine shop is always finding new things,” he said. “So, I think that’s just proof that they’re improving with everybody else and taking that next step, which is really impressive.”
Qualifying on the outside of Row 1, was Dale Earnhardt Jr., who did his part to give Hendrick Motorsports a sweep of the front row for the fifth time in the 500. His lap speed was 192.864 mph, just 0.002 seconds than Elliott’s pole-winning lap.
“It feels good,” said Earnhardt, who is competing in his first race since sitting out the second half of the 2016 NASCAR season with a concussion. “I think the guys are a little bit disappointed. They really wanted to get the pole.
“I’m disappointed too, but am absolutely thrilled to have an all-Hendrick Motorsports front row. And we’ll work on the balance practice a lot this week and make sure it’s a good handling car for the race. But, it’s a good way to start the week.”
While all 42 cars entered in the Daytona 500 put down qualifying laps today, the time trials set only the front row for the Great American Race.
The remaining 38 spots will be set Thursday night in the Can-Am Duel 150 qualifying races.
The 36 Charter teams are guaranteed to make the race. Of the six open, or non-Charter drivers, veterans Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan locked themselves into the 500, leaving four drivers to battle for the remaining two spots in the 500 starting grid.