William Byron claimed his first career pole in the NASCAR Cup Series, and Chevrolet’s 700th in the discipline, as Hendrick Motorsports dominated qualifying for the Daytona 500.
Byron’s time of 46.319s was 0.036 seconds quicker than team-mate Alex Bowman, who was second fastest in the second part of qualifying.
The pair also topped the timesheets in the first segment, albeit with 2018 polesitter Bowman fastest in that session.
The result marks the fifth consecutive pole position for Hendrick Motorsports at the Daytona 500, and is a perfect start to the new partnership between Byron and Jimmie Johnson’s former crew chief Chad Knaus.
Seven-time Cup champion Johnson was third fastest, ahead of Chase Elliott, who scored back-to-back poles at the 500 in 2016 and ’17. They completed a clean sweep of the top four spots for Hendrick.
The four drivers may not start the race in the top four spots however, with only Byron and Bowman’s positions being locked in.
Johnson, Elliott, and the rest of the field will have their starting positions decided in Thursday’s two Duel races. The odd-number positioned cars will compete in the first race, with the even numbered finishers competing in the second.
Outside of Hendrick, Richard Childress Racing’s rookie Daniel Hemric made it a top-five sweep for Chevrolet in fifth, 0.44s back from Byron – but more crucially over three tenths of a second behind fourth placed Elliott – showing the extent of Hendrick’s dominance.
Reigning Cup champion Joey Logano was the top Ford qualifier in sixth, 0.023s ahead of 2017 champion Martin Truex Jr.
Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski made it three new Ford Mustangs in the top 10, with last year’s Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillion in 10th.
Paul Menard and Denny Hamlin rounded out the 12 runners in the second part of qualifying.
Among the big names to miss out on the pole position shootout were 2018 championship contenders Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. They were 13th and 15th fastest, split by the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Erik Jones.
Harvick’s Stewart-Haas team-mates Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez also missed out on the top 12, qualifying 19th and 20th fastest as only one SHR car – Bowyer’s – made the second stage of qualifying, despite the team’s strong form last season.
Of those not guaranteed a starting spot in the race by virtue of NASCAR’s charter system, reigning Xfinity champion Tyler Reddick and Casey Mears were the highest-profile names to guarantee their places in the season-opener. They qualified 16th and 26th respectively.
Pole session results
|1||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||46.319s||–|
|2||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||46.355s||0.036s|
|3||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||46.438s||0.119s|
|4||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||46.444s||0.125s|
|5||Daniel Hemric||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||46.763s||0.444s|
|6||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||46.766s||0.447s|
|7||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||46.789s||0.470s|
|8||Clint Bowyer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||46.804s||0.485s|
|9||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||Ford||46.811s||0.492s|
|10||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||47.018s||0.699s|
|11||Paul Menard||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||47.094s||0.775s|
|12||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||47.246s||0.927s|